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

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli army began evicting about 100,000 Palestinians on Monday. The southern city is RafahA long-promised ground invasion is imminent and further complicating efforts to force a ceasefire in Gaza.

The move looms large in the city, which is home to more than 1 million Palestinians and fears high death tolls Raised global alarm And Israel’s closest allies have warned against it. On Monday, the United Nations agency serving Palestinian refugees said it would not comply with the evacuation order.

Israel described Rafa as the last notable Hamas stronghold after about seven months of fightingIt has repeatedly said the invasion was necessary to defeat the Islamist militant group that unleashed the current conflict with an attack on Israel on October 7.

But Hamas and Qatar, the main mediator, have warned that occupied Rafah — on the border with Egypt — could derail efforts by international mediators to broker a ceasefire.

Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani, an army spokesman, said about 100,000 people had been ordered to the nearby Israeli-declared humanitarian zone. You are a smoker – A makeshift camp of tents, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians seek safety along the coast and live in squalid conditions.

Shoshani said Israel was preparing for a “limited-purpose operation” and would not say whether it was the start of a wider invasion of the city. Israel has not formally announced its current ground invasion of Gaza.

Smoke could be seen rising from Rafah on Monday afternoon, although the cause was unclear.

Tensions rose on Sunday after Hamas fired rockets at Israeli troops stationed on the Gaza border near Israel’s main crossing. Providing badly needed humanitarian aid, 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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He would not say whether the move was in retaliation for the attack. Meanwhile, an Israeli airstrike on Rafah killed 22 people, including children and two infants, a hospital said.

Shoshani said Israel had published a map of the evacuation zone and orders were being issued through windblown leaflets, 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 platform X that it would act “with extreme force” against the militants, and urged people to leave immediately for their safety.

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.

About 1.4 million Palestinians – more than half of Gaza’s population – are trapped in Rafah and its environs. Most of them fled their homes elsewhere in the territory to escape Israeli attacks.

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.

After Palestinians in Rafah received flyers, people gathered to discuss their options.

“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.

Alzanin, a father of five, works for an international aid group and fled to Rafah from Beit Hanoun in the north at the start of the war. He said people are worried because of what the Palestinians have said Fired during previous evacuations. Israel has denied firing on civilians.

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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.

UNRWA, the UN agency that has helped millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank for decades, warned on Monday of the devastating consequences of the Rafah offensive, including more civilian suffering and deaths. Juliet Duma, director of communications for the agency, which has thousands of employees in the city, said it had not been evacuated and had no plans to do so.

Egypt’s Rafah crossing, the main transit point for aid into Gaza, is in the evacuation zone. The crossing was open on Monday after an Israeli order.

A war was sparked by one 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.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in the ensuing conflict, according to local health officials. The figure does not distinguish between civilians and militants, officials say at least Two-thirds of the dead were children and women. It has wreaked havoc on Gaza, and 80% of the territory’s population has fled to other parts of the besieged coastal region.

Recently, pressure to end the war has increased. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated last week that the army would move toward the city, as the United States, Egypt and Qatar pressed for a ceasefire agreement. Regardless of whether a hostage ceasefire was reached.

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On Monday, Netanyahu accused Hamas of “torpedoing” a deal and not backing down from its “serious demands.”

A Hamas official told The Associated Press that Israel is trying to pressure the group into making concessions in the ceasefire, but it will not change its demands. Hamas wants an end to the war, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and reconstruction of the area in exchange for Israeli hostages held by the militants.

In Rafah, people received fliers in Arabic on Monday morning, detailing which neighborhoods to evacuate and saying that assistance services would be available in other towns.

“The IDF is acting forcefully against terrorist organizations in the area where you currently live,” the army said in its evacuation order to residents. “Anyone in the area is putting themselves and their family members at risk.”

But some say they are too tired and unable to escape again after months of destruction.

Sahar Abu Nahel fled to Rafah with 20 members of his family.

“Where shall I go? I don’t have money or anything. I am very tired like (my) children,” she said, wiping tears from her cheeks. “Perhaps it is more honorable for us to die. We are humiliated,” he said.


Mroue reports from Beirut.

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