Rafah: the Israeli army orders the evacuation of 100,000 people in southern Gaza in the face of an imminent military operation

Rafah: the Israeli army orders the evacuation of 100,000 people in southern Gaza in the face of an imminent military operation
Rafah: the Israeli army orders the evacuation of 100,000 people in southern Gaza in the face of an imminent military operation

Image source, Getty Images

Caption, The Israeli army ordered the evacuation of nearly 100,000 people in the southern Gaza Strip.
Article information
  • Author, Yolande Knell and David Gritten
  • Role, BBC News in Jerusalem and London
  • May 6, 2024, 13:13 GMT

    Updated 2 hours

The Israeli army ordered Palestinians to leave some areas east of the city of Rafah in anticipation of a “limited” operation in the southern Gaza Strip.

Nails 100,000 people They were instructed to proceed to an “expanded humanitarian zone” in Khan Yunis and al-Mawasi.

After seven months of war, Israel says it must take Rafah to defeat the Hamas militant group.

But the UN and the United States have warned that an assault on Rafah, where they are sheltering more than a million Palestinians who had already been displaced, could haver catastrophic consequences.

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told the agency Reuters that the Israeli order represents “a dangerous escalation that will have consequences.”

According to various reports, Israeli airstrikes in Rafah killed at least 19 Palestinians overnight, after rockets fired from the area by Hamas fighters killed four Israeli soldiers at the nearby Kerem Shalom border crossing, a key crossing point. entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza. The pass was closed after the attack.

Image source, Getty Images

Caption, Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip in recent months has left more than 30,000 people dead and thousands displaced, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, managed by Hamas.

Israeli attacks have also been reported in Rafah, hours after the evacuation order was issued.

Meanwhile, latest efforts to reach a new ceasefire and hostage release deal are making slow progress, with both Israel and Hamas saying they will not budge on their main demands.

Hamas wants a permanent end to the war, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he cannot accept.

The mediators say they are continuing their efforts.

The order of Israel

In a briefing with journalists on Monday morning, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Nadav Shoshani stressed that the planned operation in Rafah is “limited scope”.

He said no timetable had been announced and the evacuation, which would affect about 100,000 people, would be carried out “gradually.”

The IDF is using text messages, flyers, and social media posts to ask the population to move.

One of the Arabic-language leaflets dropped by the planes shows a map identifying nine blocks of areas in southeast Rafah, where the IDF says it will “operate against terrorist organizations.”

These are al Shuka, al Salam, al Yanina and al Yarmouk, as well as the farmlands near Kerem Shalom.

Image source, Getty Images

Caption, One of the pamphlets delivered to refugees in the southern Gaza Strip.

The pamphlet directs residents of those areas to evacuate immediately and head to an area that extends to the north along the Mediterranean coast from al Mawasi – a thin strip of agricultural land that has long been an IDF-designated “humanitarian zone” – to Khan Yunis and the central city of Deir al Balah.

The IDF said the expanded humanitarian zone included “field hospitals, tents, and increased quantities of food, water, medicine, and additional supplies.”

“An assessment of the ongoing situation will guide the gradual transfer of civilians from the specified areas to the humanitarian zone,” he added.

But these messages are considered unlikely to lessen Gazans’ fears of a more widespread offensive.

“Devastating” consequences

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which runs the largest humanitarian organization in Gaza, said that the “consequences would be devastating for 1.4 million people” in Rafah.

UNRWA added in a post on X that it would not evacuate and would maintain its presence in the city “as long as possible and will continue to provide vital aid to the people.”

Ghada al-Kurd, a Palestinian mother of two who has been displaced six times in the last four months, told the BBC that she was sheltering just 15 minutes from one of the areas included in the evacuation order, but that for now remained there.

“I’m very confused, to be honest. I have nowhere to go. This was the last place I knew,” she said.

“If I try to go back to Khan Yunis, there is nowhere, everything is destroyed. [En cuanto a] The areas of al Mawasi are crowded and I can no longer live in a tent.

“Concerning Deir al Balah and Nuseirat [campo de refugiados]”There are still a lot of airstrikes there… and it’s a very dangerous area.”

James Elder, a spokesman for the U.N. children’s agency Unicef, who was in Gaza last month, said families now have no choice but to head toward areas that are already overcrowded and lack basic services.

“They move because they either move or they are bombed. But they will move to places where there is no water – not a little, but no water – or sanitation,” he told the BBC.

Image source, Getty Images

Caption, Many Palestinians already displaced from the north now fear returning to unsafe places.

Why Rafah?

Netanyahu has insisted for months that victory against Hamas cannot be achieved without a large-scale offensive in Rafah.

According to his government, the four Hamas battalions remaining, numbering thousands of combatants.

The head of diplomacy of the European Union, Josep Borrell, described Monday’s evacuation order as “unacceptable.”

“The EU, with the international community, can and must act to avoid this scenario,” he wrote in X.

US President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Netanyahu about Rafah on Monday.

Biden “reiterated his clear position on Rafah” that does not support an invasion of Rafah without a plan to help civilians who take refuge there.

According to the White House, Netanyahu “has agreed to ensure that the Kerem Shalom border crossing is open for humanitarian aid to those in need,” a site where four Israeli soldiers were killed in a Hamas rocket attack on Sunday.

The two leaders also spoke of Israel and the United States’ “shared commitment to remember the six million Jews who were systematically persecuted and murdered in the Holocaust… and to act forcefully against anti-Semitism and all forms of violence fueled by the Holocaust.” hate,” the White House statement said, noting that the conversation took place as Israel celebrated Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Image source, Getty Images

Caption, Israeli forces have launched missiles at points in Rafah in recent hours in response to Hamas attacks.

In Israel, some families of hostages expressed fear about what an operation in Rafah could mean for their loved ones.

“We are very afraid that the entry of the IDF into Rafah will endanger not only the lives of innocent people, not only soldiers, but also those of some hostages,” said Gil Dickmann, whose two cousins ​​were kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. . One of them was released and the other remains hostage.

The current war began when Hamas fighters swept into southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 250 Israelis and foreigners captive.

The Israeli response has been an intense aerial bombardment of all areas of Gaza and a ground invasion that has seen troops take control of most of the territory before withdrawing most troops.

More than 34,735 Palestinians have died, according to the territory’s Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Under an agreement reached in November, Hamas released 105 hostages in exchange for a week-long ceasefire and some 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Israel says 128 hostages remain unaccounted for in Gaza, with at least 34 presumed dead.

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