Israel orders new evacuations in Rafah to expand its offensive – Libération

Israel orders new evacuations in Rafah to expand its offensive – Libération
Israel orders new evacuations in Rafah to expand its offensive – Libération

Deaf to multiple international calls, Israel is preparing to extend its ground offensive to Rafah. This Saturday, May 11, the Israeli army called on residents of several additional neighborhoods of the overcrowded city in southern Gaza to evacuate and go to the “extended humanitarian zone” of al-Mawasi, according to a message published in Arabic on X by an IDF spokesperson.

“Other neighborhoods” than those evacuated in recent days “have been the scene of Hamas terrorist activities in recent days and weeks”assures Avichay Adraee, urging residents to flee “immediately”. A message also relayed on the ground via leaflets, SMS and voice messages sent by the Israeli army.

In the same message posted on “immediately to shelters west of Gaza City”. “You are in a dangerous combat zone. Hamas is trying to rebuild its capabilities in the region. indicates the press release, which warns that the IDF will operate “with great force” In the region. “Everyone in these areas puts themselves and their families at risk,” it is written.

Chaotic escape

On Tuesday, the Israeli army took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in a “precise and targeted operation” against the Islamist movement, after having ordered the evacuation of eastern districts of the city the day before. A sign of the chaos and uncertainty reigning there, the IDF said this Saturday that around 300,000 Palestinians have left Rafah since Monday to go to the al-Mawasi area. The UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, estimates that “150,000 people have fled Rafah since Monday, seeking safety where there is none,” and that 300,000 are now affected by evacuation orders in the north and south of Gaza.

“Some 30,000 people are fleeing [Rafah] each day”, indicated for his part on Friday the head of the UN Humanitarian Affairs office (Ocha) for Gaza, Georgios Petropoulos. Most “have already had to travel five or six times” since the start of the war, triggered by the bloody terrorist attack carried out on October 7 by Hamas in southern Israel.

Fleeing by all means, on foot, in carts pulled by donkeys, in cars or trucks, carrying a few personal belongings, most of these inhabitants took refuge in the so-called “extended humanitarian zone” of al-Mawasi , about ten kilometers from Rafah. Humanitarian workers on site denounce living conditions there “horrible”.

While the takeover of the Rafah crossing by the IDF has locked a key entry point for humanitarian aid convoys, and the fighting and bombings further complicate the mission of NGOs, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, warned that a massive ground offensive on Rafah would lead to a “colossal humanitarian disaster”. On Saturday, intense airstrikes targeted an area close to the crossing point with Egypt, witnesses said. Other bombings took place in the northern Gaza Strip.

“Annihilate” Hamas at all costs

For the moment, the incursions carried out by Israel in Rafah have not yet reached the stage of the large-scale ground offensive, which the Jewish state and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been repeating for weeks that they intend to carry out. . But this new call to evacuate suggests that after a first phase in eastern Rafah, where violent fighting has opposed Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants in recent days, the IDF now intends to extend its “precision counter-terrorism operation” in several areas of central Rafah. Before, undoubtedly, a gradual advance throughout the city, where the Israeli army believes that the remaining forces of Hamas and its leaders, including Yahya Sinwar, are hiding.

Since October 7, the Israeli army has been carrying out an all-out offensive in the Gaza Strip to “annihilate” at all costs Hamas, responsible for the massacre which caused the death, on the Israeli side, of more than 1,170 people, the majority civilians. More than 250 people have also been kidnapped and 128 remain captive in Gaza, of whom 36 have died, according to Tel Aviv. Israel’s unprecedented response has left nearly 35,000 dead in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Gazan authorities, who do not distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths.

Conducted for months in Doha and Cairo, with the mediation of Egypt, Qatar and the United States, the talks aiming to achieve a truce allowing a break in the fighting, the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, as well as a massive influx of humanitarian aid into the Palestinian enclave, 80% destroyed, have so far not been successful. A new session of negotiations ended Thursday in the Egyptian capital, without reaching an agreement.

Vain pressure from Biden

Campaigning for his re-election, US President Joe Biden, Israel’s main supporter, faces the impossible challenge of uniting once again the Democratic coalition that brought him to the White House in 2020, now fractured. by the role of the United States in the ongoing carnage in Gaza. From Congress to universities, many voices are being raised in the Democratic camp to demand the suspension of military aid from the United States to the Jewish state.

For weeks, Joe Biden and his administration have been increasing calls for restraint and urging Benjamin Netanyahu not to carry out his threat of a major ground offensive in Rafah. Wednesday evening, during an interview with CNN, the Democratic president matched his words with actions, affirming that he would not deliver offensive weapons to his Israeli ally, in particular “bombs and artillery shells” in the event of a larger offensive in Rafah. Immediately attracting strong criticism from Israelis and the Republican opposition.

On Friday, the White House said it was observing “with concern” Israeli military operations underway in Rafah, while judging that they remained limited at this stage and therefore did not cross the red line drawn by Washington. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that what we’ve seen in the last twenty-four hours signals a full-scale invasion or a major ground operation.”said John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council.

The Israeli call launched this Saturday for new evacuations in Rafah seems, from this point of view, to once again illustrate Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to let his conduct be dictated by Washington. “If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone. I have already said it, if necessary, we will fight with our nails”he insisted Thursday.

Updated at 4:57 p.m. with intense strikes reported on Saturday in Rafah

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