Israel evacuates 100,000 people in Rafah, ahead of announced offensive

Israel evacuates 100,000 people in Rafah, ahead of announced offensive
Israel evacuates 100,000 people in Rafah, ahead of announced offensive
THE ESSENTIAL

Israel began Monday evacuating 100,000 people from the east of the town of Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, where the army is preparing a major offensive in its war against Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been announcing for weeks an upcoming offensive on Rafah, which he presents as the last major bastion of the Islamist movement in the Palestinian territory.

“We have started a limited-scale operation to temporarily evacuate people residing in eastern Rafah,” an army spokesperson said on Monday, repeating: “This is a limited-scale operation.” He added that the number of people affected was “around 100,000 (…) immediately”.

Rafah, on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, is home, according to the UN, to 1.2 million Palestinians, or half of the territory’s population, most of them displaced people who fled the war further north. Benjamin Netanyahu promised to launch this offensive whatever the outcome of the current discussions, through the mediating countries, to try to impose a truce associated with the release of hostages held in Gaza.

New talks on Saturday and Sunday in Cairo were met with intransigence from both camps, with Hamas continuing to demand a definitive ceasefire while Israel promises to destroy the Islamist movement, which on October 7 on its soil an unprecedented attack, which started the war.

Information to remember:

  • 100,000 people living in the eastern city of Rafah are being evacuated to the southern Gaza Strip
  • The Israeli army is preparing a major offensive in this city
  • Negotiations between Israel and Hamas held in Cairo this weekend have so far yielded nothing
  • Before the offensive, bombings hit Rafah, killing 16

“Fight Hamas”

Fearing a bloodbath among civilians, capitals and international organizations are opposing the announced operation on Rafah, which Israel claims is essential to wipe out the last battalions of Hamas. On Monday, a Rafah resident told AFP that some had received voice messages on their phones inviting them to leave and text messages with a map telling them where to go.

The army had previously announced “to encourage the inhabitants of eastern Rafah to move towards the expanded humanitarian zones”, specifying that “calls to temporarily move towards the humanitarian zone would be relayed by leaflets, SMS, telephone calls and messages in Arabic in the media.

The army assured that it had “expanded the humanitarian zone in al-Mawasi”, around ten kilometers from Rafah, where “field hospitals, tents and an increasing volume of food, water, medicines” are installed. and others”. “This evacuation plan aims to keep civilians away from danger,” the army spokesperson said, “our goal is to fight Hamas, not the people of Gaza. And that is why we are carrying out this evacuation specific temporary”.

Bombings on Rafah

During the night, the army bombed Rafah, killing 16 people from two families. Rescuers reported nine deaths in the Al Attar family and seven others in the Keshta family. “Yesterday at this time, we were very optimistic and we were waiting for the announcement of a ceasefire. Today, we are on edge,” a 59-year-old resident of Rafah told AFP on Sunday. years, Najat Shaat.

Shortly before, the Israeli army told AFP that three soldiers were killed and 12 others injured on Sunday by rockets fired by the armed wing of Hamas around Kerem Shalom, the main crossing point for humanitarian aid from Israel. towards the Gaza Strip. The Ezzedine al-Qassam brigades claimed responsibility for the fire, which led Israel to close the crossing used to deliver aid to Gaza.

The Israeli army reported Monday morning on the social network X that it had intercepted an “enemy drone flying towards Israel.” The war broke out on October 7 when Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza launched an attack in southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mainly civilians, according to an AFP report established in from official Israeli data. During the attack, more than 250 people were kidnapped and 128 remain captive in Gaza, 35 of whom died, according to the army.

The Israeli offensive launched in the Gaza Strip in retaliation has so far left 34,683 dead, according to Hamas. Israel has 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.

“Getting the talks back on track”

Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed on Sunday that Israel could not “accept” the demands of Hamas, which is calling for a definitive ceasefire in the Palestinian territory before any agreement, particularly on the release of hostages. The leader of Hamas, Ismaïl Haniyeh, based in Qatar, for his part accused Benjamin Netanyahu of “sabotaging the efforts of the mediators”.

The offer from the mediator countries, Qatar, Egypt and the United States, presented to Hamas at the end of April, provides for a truce associated with the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip, in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. But a Hamas official said Sunday that the movement would “under no circumstances accept an agreement that does not explicitly provide for an end to the war.”

The Hamas delegation in Cairo, which left for Doha on Sunday evening, must return to Egypt on Tuesday “to complete negotiations”, according to a media close to Egyptian intelligence, Al-Qahera News.

After a stop in Cairo, according to American media, the head of American intelligence, William Burns, is expected in Qatar on Monday, according to a Source close to the negotiations. “In the absence of progress” during the discussions in Cairo, William Burns must have an “emergency meeting with the Prime Minister” of the emirate, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdelrahmane Al Thani, “in order to discuss ways to restore talks on track”, according to this Source.

No international pressure will prevent Israel from “defending itself”, Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday evening. “If Israel must remain alone, Israel will remain alone”, he insisted, while denouncing the “terrible volcano of anti-Semitism” sweeping across the world, according to him.

Hamas warns offensive preparations ignore fate of hostages

Hamas warned Israel on Monday that its preparations for a ground offensive on Rafah ignore the fate of hostages held in the Gaza Strip and threaten hundreds of thousands of civilians in the besieged Palestinian territory.

Hamas said in a statement that Israel is preparing to launch its offensive “without taking into consideration the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip or the fate of the captives”, who have been held there since their kidnapping on October 7 in southern Israel. The Israeli army called on residents to evacuate the east of the town of Rafah, which has become a refuge for many displaced people, on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, in preparation for a ground military offensive.

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