Israel-Gaza War: More Rafah withdrawals as Israeli operations escalate

  • the author, Robb Corporation
  • the role, BBC News

Israel has asked tens of thousands more Palestinians to leave Rafah as it escalates military operations in southern Gaza.

Passengers who fell from the plane and posts on social media urged residents of the city's eastern districts to evacuate to al-Mawasi – a narrow coastal area that Israel calls an “extended humanitarian zone”.

Parts of Rafah where the streets were filled with locals and displaced people a few days ago now look like a ghost town.

Israel has said it will continue planned operations in Rafah despite warnings from the US and other allies that a ground attack could cause widespread civilian casualties and a humanitarian crisis.

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden said that a cease-fire in Gaza is possible as soon as the next day if Hamas releases its hostages.

“Israel said it's up to Hamas, if they want to do it, we can end it tomorrow. And the ceasefire will start tomorrow,” he said at a fundraising event in Seattle. .

Israel says 128 people taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 are missing, 36 of whom are believed to be dead.

Pictures showed smoke billowing over Rafah on Saturday and witnesses reported airstrikes near the crossing with Egypt, according to AFP.

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said troops were engaged in “hand-to-hand combat” with Hamas fighters in Rafah yesterday.

The IDF added that troops had found “several underground shafts” in the area.

In recent days, there have been dozens of Israeli airstrikes along the length of the Gaza Strip, which the Israeli military says are targeting terrorists and terrorist infrastructure.

On Saturday evening, the IDF said it was currently attacking Hamas terrorist positions in the Jabalia region, in the far north of the Gaza Strip.

He had previously ordered residents to leave some areas of northern Gaza. It said they should “temporarily move to shelters in western Gaza City”.

According to Israeli media reports, Hamas fired several rockets overnight at Ashkelon, a port city about 10 kilometers (six miles) north of the Gaza border. The Times of Israel says three people were slightly injured when a rocket landed on their home.

Israel's plans to extend its ground offensive into the southern tip of the Gaza Strip – where millions of Palestinians have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere in the region – have sparked international concern.

Last week, President Biden said that the United States would not provide Israel with heavy weapons that could be used in a major attack on Rafah.

In an interview with CNN, Biden said the United States would continue to give Israel the weapons it needs to defend itself, including interceptors for its “Iron Dome” air defense system.

But he said U.S.-supplied heavy weapons had already killed civilians in Gaza, and Israel warned it would not retain Washington's support if it carried out military operations in those population centers. .

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has said Britain opposes a military operation in Rafah but is unlikely to follow the US in delaying arms sales to Israel.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped to overcome his differences with Mr Biden – but vowed to push ahead with his military offensive on Rafah.

Netanyahu said that if we need to, we will stand alone. I have said that we will fight with our nails if need be.

Saturday's withdrawal order came hours after a US State Department report said Israel had used US-supplied weapons in violation of international humanitarian law on occasions during the Gaza war. .

The report said it was “reasonable to assess” that the weapons had been used in a manner “contrary” to Israel's obligations, but added that the United States did not have complete information in its assessment and That delivery may continue.

image caption, After the announcement by the IDF, explosions were seen in northern Gaza while it was conducting operations there.

Aid agencies have warned that the ongoing Israeli military operation in southern Gaza means Palestinians will be left without any safe haven.

Rafah resident Khatam al-Khatib, who said she lost at least 10 relatives in an airstrike on a family home earlier on Saturday, told Reuters there was “no safe place in Gaza”.

“They dropped flyers on Rafah and said, Rafah to al-Zawaida is safe, people should leave, and they did, and what happened to them? Scattered bodies?” He was quoted as saying.

The charity Oxfam has said there is no functioning hospital in the area and aid supplies are extremely limited.

Abu Yusuf al-Najjar, the largest of Rafah's three partially functioning hospitals, had to be evacuated immediately the next day after staff were ordered to evacuate and fighting broke out nearby.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees has also expressed concern over the conditions in al-Mawasi camp where people are being asked to leave.

Sam Rose from UNRWA told BBC News that there is virtually no facility for dialing numbers in the area.

“These are people who live in shacks, people who live in tents along the sandy beach road. It's very difficult here in terms of providing services.

“There is no water network. No infrastructure, no sewage, no sanitation,” he said.

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group's attack on southern Israel on October 7, which killed nearly 1,200 people and took 252 others hostage, according to Israeli officials.

Since then, more than 34,900 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry.

image caption, Israeli tanks and armored vehicles have been seen near the Gaza fence.

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