NewsIsraeli forces evacuate Rafah civilians ahead of a planned Hamas stronghold assault

Israeli forces evacuate Rafah civilians ahead of a planned Hamas stronghold assault

The media report that the Israeli military has begun evacuating civilians from Rafah.
The media report that the Israeli military has begun evacuating civilians from Rafah.
Images source: © PAP | PAP/EPA/ABIR SULTAN
7:12 AM EDT, May 6, 2024

On Monday, Israeli Military Radio reported that the Israeli army has started to evacuate Palestinian civilians from Rafah, located in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, in anticipation of a planned military attack on the city. Official confirmation from the armed forces regarding these media reports has not been forthcoming.

The evacuation is focused on several districts on Rafah's outskirts, with evacuees being relocated to temporary tent settlements in the nearby towns of Khan Yunis and Al-Mawasi. The Israeli army has indicated its intent to use various communication methods, including posters, texts, phone calls, and media announcements, to encourage civilians in eastern Rafah to move to designated safer areas, according to Reuters.
Rafah is reportedly the last significant stronghold where Hamas maintains intact forces and resources, per Israeli military sources. Israeli intelligence suggests that top commanders of the organization, along with hostages taken from Israel in October who are presumed to be still alive, might be located within the city.

The US Warns Against Israeli Attack on Rafah

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed concern over the potential Israeli attack on Rafah, labeling the expected civilian losses as "unacceptable." He pointed out that Israel has yet to provide a plan that ensures civilian safety during the anticipated attack. The Associated Press highlighted Prime Minister Netanyahu's stance of proceeding with a ground invasion of Rafah, irrespective of any ceasefire agreement or arrangement regarding hostages.

Despite US pressures, on Tuesday, Netanyahu maintained his position, insisting that halting the operation before achieving its objectives was not an option, promising to "we will enter Rafah and we will eliminate the Hamas," AFP reported.

Netanyahu's statements on Holocaust Remembrance Day hinted at a strain in relations with the Biden administration, emphasizing Israel's determination to defend itself, with or without external support. Despite this, there have been suggestions of a possible delay in the attack if a long-term ceasefire can be negotiated. Israel has issued a deadline for Hamas to accept a ceasefire proposal by the coming Friday, May 10, implicitly threatening military action otherwise.

Concerns Over Humanitarian Impact

The potential invasion poses a significant risk of creating a humanitarian crisis in Rafah. The city has become a sanctuary for approximately one million Palestinians displaced from other parts of Gaza. Additionally, it is a crucial conduit for most humanitarian aid entering the enclave through its border crossing with Egypt. According to recent estimates, the population of Rafah, recorded at around 275,000 last September, could now be hosting up to 1.4 million people.

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