Israel PM Orders Army to Evacuate Civilians from Gaza’s Rafah | World News

Feb 10, 2024

Gaza Strip, Israeli air strikes There was a scuffle in the dense crowd Refa after the Prime Minister on Saturday benjamin netanyahu Ordered its troops to be “operationally prepared” in the southern border town, which has become the last refuge for displaced Palestinians.
Netanyahu's planned assault on Rafah, where an estimated 1.3 million people have taken refuge, has drawn condemnation from rights groups and Washington, while Palestinians say they have been left with no room to retreat.
Witnesses reported new attacks on Rafah early Saturday as Israeli forces stepped up airstrikes, raising fears among Palestinians of an upcoming ground offensive.
“We don't know where to go,” said Mohammed al-Jarrah, a Palestinian who was displaced from the north into Rafah.
The city is the last major population center in the Gaza Strip that Israeli troops have not yet entered, but it is also the main point of entry for desperately needed relief supplies.
Netanyahu told military officials on Friday to submit to the Cabinet a joint plan to evacuate the population and destroy battalions of Hamas militants hiding in Rafah, his office said.
The US State Department said it does not support a ground attack in Rafah, warning that if not properly planned, such an operation risks “disaster”.
The United States is Israel's main international supporter, providing it with billions of dollars of military aid.
But in a sign of his growing frustration with Israel's leadership, President Joe Biden issued his strongest criticism yet of the conduct of the war, calling Hamas's retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack as going too far.
The US president said, “As you know, I believe that the conduct of the response in Gaza has been top notch.”
“There are a lot of innocent people who are starving… in trouble and dying, and it has to stop.”
Displaced Palestinians from other Gaza towns and cities have flooded into Rafah, where thousands are sleeping in tents pitched facing the Egyptian border.
AFP pictures showed scenes of devastation on the streets of Rafah, where people queued for rapidly dwindling water.
Rights groups have expressed concern over the possibility of ground infiltration there.
“Israel's announced ground offensive on Rafah would be devastating and should not proceed,” Doctors Without Borders said in a statement. “There is no place in Gaza that is safe and there is no way for people to leave.”
The Palestinian Red Crescent said Friday that three children were killed in an attack in Rafah.
Jaber al-Bardini, 60, said, “We heard a big explosion next to our house… We found two children martyred on the street.”
“There is no safe place in Rafah. If they attack Rafah we will die in our homes. We have no choice. We don't want to go anywhere else.”
The Israeli military said its forces “killed 15 terrorists” in the previous day in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza's largest city.
Israeli forces raided the city's al-Amal hospital on Friday, after a week-long siege, during which the Palestinian Red Crescent reported “intense artillery shelling and heavy shelling”.
The medical organization said Israeli forces had arrested eight members of its team at the hospital, including “four doctors, as well as four injured persons and companions of five patients”.
UN chief Antonio Guterres has said that any Israeli pressure in Rafah would “rapidly escalate what is already a humanitarian nightmare”.
But Netanyahu's office said it would be “impossible” to achieve the war objective of eliminating Hamas by leaving four battalions of militants in Rafah.
Hamas' unprecedented attack on October 7 killed some 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas and launched airstrikes and ground attacks that killed at least 27,947 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run territory.
Israel said militants had captured 250 hostages, of whom 132 were still in Gaza, but 29 were presumed dead.
State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said the Israeli ground action in Rafah was “not something we would support”.
Patel warned, “Undertaking such an operation now, without any planning and little thought… would be a disaster.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had conveyed Washington's concerns directly to Netanyahu during talks in Jerusalem this week, he said.
On ceasefire talks, Blinken insisted he still saw “room for compromise” to stop the fighting and bring Israeli hostages home, even if Netanyahu rejected Hamas's “bizarre demands”.
Hamas negotiators left Cairo on Friday following what a Hamas source described as “positive and good discussions” with mediators from Egypt and Qatar on a new Gaza ceasefire and hostage exchange.
“The delegation left Cairo tonight (Friday) and is awaiting Israel's response,” a Hamas official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The impact of the war has been widely felt, with violence involving Hamas's Iran-backed affiliates increasing across the Middle East since October and involving US forces, among others.
Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said on Friday it fired dozens of rockets at army positions in the Israeli-held Golan Heights, hours after the attack on northern Israel.
Friday's attack came as Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Beirut for talks with senior officials.
In the early hours of Saturday, Israeli strikes targeted the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, with “physical” damage reported, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the official Syrian Press Agency.
Due to the ongoing war and the risk of wider consequences, US ratings agency Moody's on Friday downgraded Israel's credit rating, and also changed its outlook for Israel's debt to “negative” due to the “risk of escalation” with Hezbollah. done.

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