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Israel threatens to continue its offensive in Gaza during Ramadan

The fighting continued. Monday in the Gaza Strip where Israel threatens to continue its offensive against Hamas during Ramadan if the hostages are not released by then, including in the Rafah region , in the south, where ù nearly a million and a half Palestinian civilians are massed.

As hopes for a truce fade, the international community is worried about a possible ground offensive in this city backed by the closed border with Egypt, which has become a gigantic encampment where 1.4 million people now live, according to the UN, the majority of displaced people have fled the war.

Twenty-six of the 27 EU countries called on Monday for an “immediate humanitarian pause” and requested Israel not to launch military action in Rafah.

The war was triggered by an unprecedented attack launched on October 7 by Hamas commandos infiltrated in the southern Israel. More than 1,160 people were killed, the majority civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data.

Israel threatens to continue its offensive in Gaza during Ramadan

Food distribution in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, February 19, 2024 © AFP – MOHAMMED ABED

In retaliation, Israel vowed to annihilate the Islamist movement, in power in Gaza since 2007, which it considers a terrorist organization along with the United States and the European Union.

The Israeli army launched an offensive which left 29,092 dead in Gaza, the vast majority civilians, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health, and plunged the territory, besieged by Israel, into a major humanitarian crisis.

“My children are dying of hunger, they wake up crying,” a woman taking refuge in a camp in northern Gaza told AFP. “Where can I find food for them?”

Israel threatens to continue its offensive in Gaza during Ramadan

Palestinians search for survivors in the rubble of the Baraka family home in Deir al-Balah destroyed by an Israeli strike, in the central Gaza Strip, February 18, 2024 © AFP – –

The ministry on Monday counted 107 dead in 24 hours in strikes, notably on Rafah and the neighboring town of Khan Younes, transformed into a field of ruins, where the army is hunting down Hamas fighters.

After advancing from the north of the territory, Israeli soldiers are now not far from Rafah, where Israel has announced that it is preparing a ground offensive.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the city Hamas's “last bastion” and said he was determined to continue the offensive “until complete victory” and the release of the hostages.

According to Israel, 130 hostages are still held in Gaza, 30 of whom are believed to have died, out of around 250 people kidnapped on October 7. A truce at the end of November allowed the release of 105 hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

– “Minimize” civilian casualties –

Israel threatens to continue its offensive in Gaza during Ramadan

Israeli tanks along the border with the Gaza Strip, February 19, 2024 © AFP – Menahem KAHANA

“If by Ramadan, our hostages are not at home, the fighting will continue everywhere, including in the Rafah region”, warned Benny Gantz, member of the war cabinet on Sunday by Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Hamas has a choice. They can surrender, free the hostages and the civilians of Gaza will be able to celebrate Ramadan”, the month of Muslim fasting which begins this year around March 10, Mr. Gantz said.

Israel threatens to continue its offensive in Gaza during Ramadan

Trucks entering the Gaza Strip © AFP – Omar KAMAL, Gal ROMA

According to him, an offensive in Rafah would take place within the framework of a dialogue with “American and Egyptian partners”, “by facilitating the evacuation of civilians” to “minimize (…) as much as possible” the number of civilian casualties.

Mr. Netanyahu had assured that the army would allow civilians “to leave the combat zones” before the assault, without saying to which destination.

Egypt has rejected any “forced displacement” of Palestinians towards its territory.

According to the Wall Street Journal and an Egyptian NGO, this country is erecting a closed camp in the Sinai to welcome Palestinians from Gaza. Satellite images show the construction of a wall on the Egyptian side, parallel to the border with Gaza.

– “Apartheid” –

Israel threatens to continue its offensive in Gaza during Ramadan

Rafah: constructions on the Egyptian side of the border © AFP – Valentin RAKOVSKY, Jean-Michel CORNU

On Monday, witnesses reported new fighting in Khan Younes where the Nasser hospital, the largest in southern Gaza, stormed by the Israeli army, is out of service, according to the World Health Organization and Hamas.

Soldiers entered this hospital on February 15, based on information that hostages had been held there, and arrested around a hundred people.

Israel threatens to continue its offensive in Gaza during Ramadan

Israeli bombings on Khan Younes, in the south of the Gaza Strip, February 19, 2024 © AFP – SAID KHATIB

A WHO mission was able to enter the hospital on Sunday and evacuate 14 patients, the organization's director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced Monday on X.

He added that more than 180 patients and 15 doctors and nurses were still in the Nasser hospital, which lacks “food, basic medical equipment and oxygen”, where there is “neither running water, nor electricity with the exception of an emergency generator which powers certain resuscitation equipment.

Israel threatens to continue its offensive in Gaza during Ramadan

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki (r) and members of his delegation during a hearing at the International Court of Justice on February 19, 2024 in The Hague © ANP – Robin van Lonkhuijsen

On Monday in The Hague, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest court of the UN, began examining the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967.

That year, Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are still occupied, and Gaza, from which it withdrew in 2005.

Israel threatens to continue its offensive in Gaza during Ramadan

Gaza Strip: Rafah, gigantic refugee camp © AFP – Valentina BRESCHI, Kevin TRUBLET

“The Palestinians are suffering from colonialism and apartheid”, declared the head of Palestinian diplomacy, Riad Al-Maliki, before the ICJ.

UN human rights experts also called on Monday for an independent investigation into allegations of violence, including sexual violence, against Palestinian women, allegedly perpetrated by Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel called the claims “despicable and baseless.”

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116