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Netanyahu wants to evacuate civilians from Rafah, the United States fears a “disaster”

Photo: Mohammed Abed Agence France-Presse A man sitting in a horse-drawn cart drives through rubble in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Friday.

Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Emmanuel Duparcq – Agence France-Presse in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem respectively

February 9, 2024

  • Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his army on Friday to prepare an “evacuation plan” for civilians from Rafah, with the international community alarmed by a possible Israeli ground offensive against this main refuge for displaced people from the war in the Gaza Strip.

In a rare criticism of Israel since the war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas began four months ago, US President Joe Biden said: “excessive” response in the Gaza Strip to the October 7 attack.

The war was sparked by an attack of unprecedented violence carried out that day by Hamas commandos infiltrated from the Gaza Strip in southern Israel, which killed more than 1 160 dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data.

In retaliation, Israel vowed to “destroy” Hamas and launched a vast offensive that left at least 27,940 dead in Gaza, the vast majority civilians, according to the Health Ministry of the Islamist movement, which took power. in 2007 in the Palestinian territory.

In the past 24 hours, at least 107 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli aerial bombardments on the besieged territory, notably in Rafah and Khan Younes, a few kilometers away, the ministry said.

In Rafah, several buildings were destroyed, according to AFP photographers. In one neighborhood, people were seen carrying the bodies of three children killed in a bombing.

After ordering his army on Wednesday to prepare an offensive on Rafah, Benjamin Netanyahu asked him on Friday to submit a “combined plan” for the “evacuation” of civilians from Rafah and the “destruction” of Hamas in this city, according to his services.

“It is impossible to achieve the objective of the war without eliminating Hamas and leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah,” and this requires that “civilians evacuate the combat zones,” he said. -he said.

“Farewell to humanity”

Backed by the closed border with Egypt, the city of Rafah is home to 1.3 million Palestinians, the vast majority of whom have been displaced by the war and live in disastrous conditions. It is subjected to daily aerial bombardments.

The United States indicated Thursday that it “would not support” a major operation in Rafah, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who concluded a regional tour in Israel on Thursday, made this directly known to M . Netanyahu, according to the State Department.

“Carrying out such an operation now [in Rafah] without planning and thought in an area housing a million people would be a disaster,” the State Department warned.

For the head of the UN, António Guterres, such an offensive “would exponentially worsen the current humanitarian nightmare”.

“If they invade Rafah, as Netanyahu said, there will be massacres and we can say goodbye to all humanity,” said Adel al-Hajj, a displaced person in the city.

Also read

  • Netanyahu wants to launch assault on Rafah despite efforts towards truce
  • Political maneuvers in Israel amid negotiations for a truce in Gaza

End of negotiations in Cairo

After launching incessant bombardments by land, sea and air on October 7 against the 362 km2 territory where some 2.4 million inhabitants are crowded, the Israeli army launched on October 27 a ground offensive in the north of the Gaza Strip before extending it to the south, especially to Khan Younes north of Rafah.

On Friday, Israeli forces stormed al-Amal hospital in Khan Younes, the Palestinian Red Crescent said. Around 40 displaced people, 80 patients and 100 employees are still in the establishment, this source said on Monday.

The army confirmed “a search operation based on intelligence indicating that Hamas was carrying out terrorist activities within the hospital.”

During the October 7 attack, approximately 250 people were also kidnapped and taken to Gaza. According to Israel, 132 hostages are still held there, of whom 29 are believed to have died.

Negotiations between Qatari and Egyptian mediators and Hamas, launched Thursday in Cairo to try to reach a truce agreement including an exchange of Palestinian prisoners and hostages, ended Friday, said a Hamas official told AFP. “The Hamas delegation has left Cairo,” the official said, saying, without further details, “waiting for a response from Israel.”

An agreement at the end of November allowed a one-week truce, the delivery of more aid to Gaza and the release of around a hundred hostages and some 240 Palestinian prisoners imprisoned by Israel.

On another battle front, the pro-Iranian Lebanese movement Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, claimed to have launched dozens of rockets on Friday at an Israeli military position in the Syrian Golan occupied by Israel. And the Israeli army reported airstrikes on Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon, bordering northern Israel.

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