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Israel begins Rafah evacuation ahead of planned military operation

In World
May 06, 2024

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Monday started to evacuate the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip ahead of its expected military operation there.

“We begin a limited scope operation to temporarily evacuate inhabitants of eastern Rafah,” an IDF spokesman said.

The IDF called on the inhabitants of the eastern part of the city on the border with Egypt to move to the al-Mawasi camp on the Mediterranean a few kilometres to the north. An estimated 100,000 people are affected, according to an IDF spokesman. They were informed by text message, telephone, leaflets and via Arabic-language media.

Indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist terrorist organization Hamas in Cairo on a new ceasefire in the Gaza war and the release of hostages in return for Palestinian prisoners had previously failed to produce any immediate results.

People were to go to an “expanded humanitarian area” in the al-Mawasi area. Food, water and medicine are available there, the IDF spokesman said. The army had also set up field hospitals there. The spokesman could not say how much time people have to evacuate.

He emphasized that the supply of humanitarian aid to the population would continue unhindered during the evacuation operation. These could be brought to the coastal strip via various routes, for example via the port in Ashdod.

Israel wants to use the military operation in Rafah to smash Hamas’ remaining battalions, which it has been fighting in the coastal strip since October. Hostages are also believed to be held in the town on the border with Egypt.

Israel has been threatening to launch a ground offensive into Rafah for months.

Israel’s allies have been urgently warning against a Rafah offensive because hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Palestinians have moved there.

Overnight Israel’s Defence Miniseter Yoav Gallant spoke with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin, Gallant’s office said.

Gallant briefed Austin on the Sunday Hamas attack, in which approximately 10 projectiles were fired from the area adjacent to the Rafah crossing toward the area of the Kerem Shalom humanitarian crossing. Three Israeli soldiers were killed in that attack.

Kerem Shalom is the most important border crossing for the delivery of aid from Israel to the Gaza Strip. The army temporarily closed it to humanitarian shipments after the rocket attack. The military then reportedly bombed the site in the Gaza Strip near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, where the attack had originated.

Gallant’s office said the minister discussed the hostage release efforts and said at this stage Hamas refuses the frameworks at hand, adding that military action is required, since there is a “lack of an alternative.”

The state of Israel cannot tolerate a situation in which Hamas continues to attack its citizens while showing a “lack of seriousness” on releasing the hostages.

Israel is committed to achieve its war goals, the spokesman said – destruction of Hamas and the return of the remaining 132 hostages still in Gaza.

Gallant expressed his appreciation to Austin for the US and its “partnership and leadership” and highlighted the US’ important role on the hostage issue.

Israel said it wants to evacuate the city before conducting combat operations in Rafah. This is expected to take several weeks. Hamas has prepared its fighters in Rafah for deployment against Israel and supplied them with provisions and weapons, according to reports from Israel. The number of militants guarding the hostages has also increased, according to media reports.

Palestinians holds a leaflet dropped by the military aircraft of the Israeli army on the east of the city of Rafah, ordering them to evacuate and move towards the west of the city and the city of Khan Yunis. The leaflet says that all residents of eastern Rafah must evacuate immediately. The aforementioned area is area of conflict and fighting. Abed Rahim Khatib/dpa

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