Gaza: Thousands of Palestinians flee Rafah on 76th anniversary of the Nakba | TV5MONDE

Gaza: Thousands of Palestinians flee Rafah on 76th anniversary of the Nakba | TV5MONDE
Gaza: Thousands of Palestinians flee Rafah on 76th anniversary of the Nakba | TV5MONDE

Thousands of civilians continue to flee the city of Rafah on Wednesday, shelled by Israel and threatened with a major ground offensive, on the day when Palestinians commemorate the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe”, in reference to their forced exodus during of the creation of Israel in 1948.

While the bombings and deadly fighting show no respite in the besieged and war-ravaged Gaza Strip, the population, displaced several times since the start of the war, is once again on the roads trying to find refuge. , even if “there is no safe place in Gaza”, according to the UN.

In the eighth month of the war started on October 7 by an unprecedented attack on Israeli soil by Palestinian Hamas, 35,233 people have died in the Gaza Strip, mainly civilians, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annihilate the Palestinian Islamist movement which took power in Gaza in 2007 and which he considers a terrorist organization along with the United States and the European Union.

To do this, he is determined to launch a major land offensive in Rafah, on the southern edge of the small Palestinian territory, where according to him the last Hamas battalions are entrenched.

Worried about the civilian population, the United States, like a large part of the international community, is opposed to such an offensive in this city located on the Egyptian border, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people are crowded together.

No “catastrophe” according to Netanyahu

Mr. Netanyahu believes that “the humanitarian catastrophe” in Rafah was avoided by Israel, which has been carrying out a military operation in the city since May 7.

“For the moment, nearly half a million people have evacuated the fighting zone in Rafah. The humanitarian catastrophe that we have spoken about has not happened and will not happen,” he assured in a statement. communicated.

The UN estimates that nearly 450,000 people have been “forcibly displaced” since the Israeli army ordered civilians to leave the eastern areas of Rafah on May 6.

President Joe Biden threatened a week ago to limit American military aid to his ally amid concerns about a large offensive in Rafah. But the American executive notified Congress on Tuesday that it would deliver weapons to Israel for around a billion dollars, AFP learned from sources familiar with the matter.

During an interview with the American channel CNBC, the Israeli Prime Minister acknowledged a “disagreement” with his American ally “on Gaza. Rather on Rafah”.

“But we have to do what we have to do,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “We cannot allow Hamas to retake Gaza.”

The European Union, for its part, urged Israel on Wednesday to “immediately cease” its operation in Rafah, otherwise it would “strain” its relationship with the EU.

“The continued suffering of millions of refugees in Palestine and the diaspora is directly caused by the Zionist occupation. Their legitimate right of return (…) cannot be compromised,” Hamas said occasion of the Nakba commemorations.

During the “Nakba”, around 760,000 Palestinian Arabs were driven into exile and took refuge in neighboring countries or what would become the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to the UN.

“Intense” fights

On the ground, AFP journalists and witnesses reported airstrikes, artillery bombardments and fighting during the night and in the morning in Rafah (south), Jabalia (north) and in the neighborhood of Zeitoun, in the south of the northern Gaza City.

Hamas’ armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, confirmed clashes with Israeli forces in the Jabalia camp. The Israeli army also reported “intense” fighting in this city, saying it had killed “a large number of terrorists”.

Fighting is also taking place in “specific sectors” of eastern Rafah, with the army indicating that it has carried out an operation against a Hamas training center.

In Bureij, in the center of the Gaza Strip, Khairi Al-Kunz holds the body of her niece, killed in a bombing. “She is an innocent child…, she has nothing to do with what is happening, why did these criminals kill her?”

The Hamas attack carried out in southern Israel on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP report based on official Israeli data. More than 250 people were kidnapped during the attack and 128 remain captive in Gaza, of whom 36 are believed to have died, according to the army.

Help blocked

Entering Rafah with tanks on May 7, the Israeli army is still deployed on the Palestinian side of the crossing point with Egypt, crucial for bringing in fuel, essential for the operation of infrastructure and humanitarian logistics.

Nothing has entered through Rafah since, with Egypt and Israel passing the responsibility on each other. Humanitarian aid is also blocked at the main crossing point with Israel, Kerem Shalom.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for “the immediate reopening” of the Rafah crossing point and the “unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid.”

In the occupied West Bank, thousands of Palestinians marched on Wednesday, notably in the cities of Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron, to commemorate the “Nakba”.

The official Palestinian Wafa agency reported that a 20-year-old student “was mortally wounded in the neck by a bullet” during clashes at the entrance to the town of al-Bireh, near Ramallah, between forces Israelis and young people marching for this anniversary. Israel had no immediate comment.

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