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

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military ordered the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Monday, signaling that a long-promised ground invasion may be imminent.

The announcement complicated last-ditch efforts by international mediators, including the director of the CIA, to broker a ceasefire. Key mediators from Hamas and Qatar have warned that an invasion of Rafah would derail the talks.

Israel has described Rafah as Hamas’s last stronghold after a seven-month war.

Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani, an army spokesman, said about 100,000 people were being ordered to the nearby Israeli-declared humanitarian zone of Muazi. He said Israel was preparing for a “limited-purpose operation” and could not say whether it was the start of a wider invasion of the city. But last October, Israel did not formally announce the start of the ground offensive that continues to this day.

The move comes a day after Hamas militants launched a deadly rocket attack from the area that killed three Israeli soldiers.

Shoshani said Israel had published a map of the evacuation zone, and orders were being issued through leaflets dropped from the sky, text messages and radio broadcasts.

He said Israel has extended humanitarian aid to Muwasi, including field hospitals, tents, food and water.

Israel’s military said on social media site X on Monday that it would act “with extreme force” against the extremists and urged people to leave immediately for their safety.

Israel plans to occupy Rafah Raised global alarm Because it has the potential to harm more than a million people Palestinian civilians have taken refuge there.

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About 1.4 million Palestinians – more than half of Gaza’s population – are trapped in the city and its environs. Most of them fled their homes elsewhere in the territory to escape Israel’s onslaught, and now face another dire move, or risk facing the brunt of a new attack. They live in densely packed tent camps, overflowing UN shelters or overcrowded apartments, and rely on international aid for food, with crippled health systems and medical infrastructure.

Israel’s closest ally, the United States, has repeatedly urged Israel not to launch an invasion, saying it has no credible plan to protect civilians.

But even as the United States, Egypt and Qatar pressed for a cease-fire agreement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu It repeated last week that it would move toward the city “with or without a deal” to achieve its goal of destroying the army. Hamas militant group.

On Sunday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Hamas was not serious about a deal and warned of “a powerful move in Rafah in the future”. His comments came after Hamas attacked a key Israeli crossing on Sunday for offering aid, killing three soldiers.

Shoshani would not say whether the upcoming Rafa action was in retaliation for Sunday’s murder. He said the incident would have no effect on the volumes of badly needed aid entering Gaza as other crossing points remain operational.

However, he would not comment on US warnings not to invade and was unclear on whether the evacuation was coordinated with Egypt.

Egypt, Israel’s strategic partner, has said an Israeli military takeover of the Gaza-Egypt border – which must be demilitarized – or any move to push Palestinians into Egypt would threaten its four-decade peace deal with Israel.

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In Rafah, people on Monday morning received flyers in Arabic detailing which neighborhoods had to leave and where humanitarian zones had expanded. Aid services will extend from Deir al-Balah in the north to the heart of Khan Younis city in the middle of the Gaza Strip, the fliers said.

After Palestinians in Rafah received flyers, people gathered to discuss their options. Most said they did not want to travel alone and preferred traveling in a group.

“Many people have been displaced here and now they have to go back, but no one stays here and it’s not safe,” Nidal Aljanin told The Associated Press by phone.

Alsanin, a father of five, works for an international aid group and moved to Rafah from Beit Hanoun in the north at the start of the war.

He said people were worried because Israeli troops had fired on Palestinians during previous evacuation orders.

Alzanin said he had packed his documents and bags but would wait 24 hours before transferring to others. He said he had a friend in Khan Yunis who he hoped could set up a tent for his family.

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