Israel-Hamas war: Palestinians ordered to evacuate parts of Rafah

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military ordered Monday to begin evacuating some 100,000 Palestinians from the southern city. Rafa in GazaA long-promised ground invasion is imminent and further complications indicate that attempts to broker a cease-fire are likely.

Israel, including its closest ally the United States, has repeatedly said Israel should not attack Rafah. There is a looming operation Raised global alarm About 1.4 million Palestinians have taken refuge there.

Aid agencies have warned that an attack would worsen Gaza’s humanitarian disaster and bring more civilian deaths to the Israeli campaign, which has killed 34,000 people in nearly seven months and devastated the territory.

US President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday and reiterated US concerns about the invasion of Rafah. Biden said a cease-fire with Hamas was the best way to protect the lives of Israeli hostages held in Gaza, a National Security Council spokesman said on condition of anonymity to discuss the call before the release of an official White House statement.

Hamas and key mediator Qatar said they were occupying Rafah Defeat efforts to a cease-fire brokered by international mediators. A few days earlier, Hamas was discussing a US-backed plan that raised the possibility of an end to the war and said Israeli troops would be withdrawn to free all hostages held by the group. Israeli officials rejected the tradeoff, vowing to continue their campaign until Hamas was destroyed.

Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel’s capture of Rafah was the last priority Hamas stronghold In Gaza, it is crucial to ensure that the militants cannot rebuild their military capabilities and repeat the October 7 attack on Israel that sparked the war.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani said about 100,000 people were being ordered to move from parts of Rafah to the nearby Israeli-declared humanitarian zone. You are a smoker, a temporary camp on the beach. He said Israel has expanded the size of the zone to include tents, food, water and field hospitals.

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However, it was not immediately clear whether the material already existed to accommodate the newcomers.

About 450,000 displaced Palestinians have already taken refuge in Muwasi. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, said it was providing aid to them. But the situation is dire, often with few bathrooms or sanitation facilities in rural areas, forcing families to dig private latrines.

After Monday’s announcement of the evacuation order, Palestinians in Rafah wrestled to be uprooted from their families once again to an unknown fate, languishing for months in sprawling tent camps or crowding into schools or other shelters in and around the city. Some who spoke to The Associated Press preferred to risk staying.

Mohamed Jindia said at the start of the war he tried to stay in his home in northern Gaza after Israel ordered him to leave in October. He suffered heavy shelling before escaping to Rafah.

He complies with the order this time, but is now unsure whether to move to Muazi or another town in central Gaza.

“We are 12 families and we don’t know where to go. There is no safe zone in Gaza,” he said.

Sahar Abu Nahel fled to Rafah with 20 family members, including his children and grandchildren, wiping tears from his cheeks in frustration at a new move.

“I have no money or anything. I am very tired like the children,” he said. “Perhaps it would be more honorable for us to die. We are being humiliated,” he said.

Israeli military leaflets were dropped with evacuation maps for many eastern areas of Rafah, warning that an attack was imminent and that those who stayed would “endanger themselves and their family members”. Text messages and radio broadcasts repeated the message.

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Scott Anderson, the agency’s director in Gaza, said UNRWA would not leave Rafah so it could continue to provide aid to those left behind.

“We will help people wherever they want to be,” he told the AP.

The UN warned that an attack on Rafah would disrupt the flow of aid that keeps Palestinians alive across Gaza. Egypt’s Rafah, the main gateway for aid to Gaza, is in the evacuation zone. The crossing was open on Monday after an Israeli order.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, condemned the “forced, illegal” evacuation order and the idea that people should go to Muvasi.

“This area is already overcrowded and without vital services,” Egeland said. An Israeli attack would lead to “the deadliest phase of this war,” he said.

More than 34,700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli bombing and ground attacks. Two-thirds of them are children and women, according to Gaza health officials. This figure does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. More than 80% of the population of 2.3 million have been driven from their homes, and hundreds of thousands of people in the north are on the brink of famine, according to the UN.

Tensions rose on Sunday after Hamas fired rockets at Israeli troops stationed on the Gaza border near Israel’s main crossing. Provision of humanitarian assistance, four soldiers were killed. Shoshani said Israel has closed the crossing — but that won’t affect how much aid is getting into Gaza because others are working.

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Meanwhile, an Israeli airstrike on Rafah killed 22 people, including children and two infants, a hospital said.

War broke out through An unprecedented October 7 attack in southern Israel In which Hamas and other militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 250 hostages. Hamas is believed to still be holding 100 Israelis captive and the bodies of around 30 more since the exchanges during the November ceasefire.

The mediators of the ceasefire – the United States, Egypt and Qatar – appeared to be struggling to save the ceasefire agreement they had been trying to push through for the past week. Egypt said on Monday it was in contact with all parties to “prevent the situation … from spiraling out of control”.

CIA Director William Burns, who was in Cairo to negotiate the deal, went to meet the Qatari prime minister, an official familiar with the matter said. It is unclear whether the planned next trip to Israel will take place. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations.

In a fiery speech Sunday evening marking Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Netanyahu rejected international pressure to end the war, saying “if Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.”

On Monday, Netanyahu accused Hamas of “torpedoing” a deal that did not budge from its demands for an end to fighting and a full Israeli troop withdrawal in exchange for the release of hostages, which he called “extreme.”

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Bassem Mroue reports from Beirut. Zeke Miller contributed to this report from Washington.

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