Gaza: hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flee Rafah, no “catastrophe” according to Netanyahu

Gaza: hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flee Rafah, no “catastrophe” according to Netanyahu
Gaza: hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flee Rafah, no “catastrophe” according to Netanyahu

Gaza: hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flee Rafah

Published today at 3:45 a.m. Updated 7 minutes ago

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians continue to flee Rafah, a town in the south of the Gaza Strip threatened by a major Israeli offensive but where, according to the Israeli Prime Minister, “a humanitarian catastrophe” has been avoided.

Hamas leader Ismaïl Haniyeh affirmed on Wednesday that the Islamist movement, which took power in Gaza in 2007 that Benjamin Netanyahu promised to annihilate, was “here to last” and that he would decide with other Palestinian factions to governance in Gaza after the war with Israel.

Ismail Haniyeh added that the outcome of the ceasefire talks was uncertain because Israel “insists on occupying the Rafah crossing and amplifying its aggression” into the Palestinian territory.

He spoke in a televised speech, after more than seven months of war, on the day when the Palestinians commemorated the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe”, in reference to their forced exodus during the creation of Israel in 1948.

“There is no safe place in Gaza”

The population threatened with famine and displaced several times since the start of the war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas, is once again on the roads in search of a new refuge, even if “there is no safe place in Gaza,” according to the UN.

Benyamin Netanyahu is determined to launch a major ground 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.

Benyamin Netanyahu believes that “the humanitarian catastrophe” in Rafah was avoided by Israel, affirming that “nearly half a million people had evacuated the combat zone” in this city where the Israeli army is carrying out operations military since May 7.

“Seventy-six years after the Nakba, Palestinians continue to be forcibly displaced. In the Gaza Strip, 600,000 people have fled Rafah since the intensification of military operations,” lamented the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

American arms delivery

US President Joe Biden threatened last week to limit US military aid to his ally amid concerns of 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 Washington on Rafah. “But we have to do what we have to do,” he said.

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

The war in Gaza plunges the Palestinians into a new “Nakba”, laments a Gazans who fled the fighting. “The Nakba that we are experiencing (…) is the worst of all. Much harder than that of 1948,” laments Mohammed al-Farra, 42, driven out with his family by the fighting and Israeli bombings of their house in Khan Younes (south).

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 the Gaza Strip, according to the UN.

Airstrikes

AFP journalists and witnesses on Wednesday reported airstrikes, artillery bombardments and fighting overnight and into the morning in Rafah, Jabalia (north) and the Zeitoun neighborhood in the northern city. from Gaza.

Hamas reported clashes with Israeli forces in Jabalia. 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 areas” of eastern Rafah, where the army said it had carried out an operation against a training center for Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the EU.

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.

In response, Israel launched a vast offensive which devastated the Gaza Strip. In the eighth month of the war, 35,233 people have died in the Gaza Strip, mainly civilians, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.

Post-war uncertain

In Gaza, the post-war future remains uncertain. If Benjamin Netanyahu does not want to talk about it “until Hamas is destroyed”, his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he was opposed to Israel exercising military or civilian “control” over the strip. Gaza once the war ended and called for a Palestinian alternative to Hamas.

Entering the Rafah sector 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 called for “the immediate reopening” of the Rafah crossing point.

The United Kingdom announced on Wednesday the departure from Cyprus of a first cargo of nearly 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid by sea for Gaza where it should be unloaded at an artificial port built by the American army and soon operational.

More “hundreds of tons” of humanitarian aid are ready to be transported to Gaza once the port opens, according to Brad Cooper of the US Middle East Military Command (Centcom).

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