Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has directed the Israeli military to devise a plan for the evacuation of civilians in the southern city of Rafah, setting the stage for an anticipated offensive in the densely populated area.
The prime minister’s office stated that any significant action in Rafah would necessitate the removal of the civilian population from combat zones, without specifying the exact areas considered combat zones.
Approximately 1.4 million Palestinians have sought refuge in Rafah in recent weeks, becoming one of the last areas in the Gaza Strip where Israeli ground forces have yet to be extensively deployed.
Many of these individuals have experienced displacement multiple times during the ongoing conflict, leading to daily struggles for essentials such as food, water, and medicine.
The Biden administration issued a warning on Thursday, expressing its current lack of support for Israeli plans for a military operation in Rafah. Both a White House spokesman and the U.N. secretary-general cautioned against the potential catastrophe that could arise from an Israeli attack on the city.
The Israeli prime minister’s office emphasized that realizing Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas’s rule in Gaza would require addressing what it claimed were battalions of the group’s fighters present in Rafah.
The proposed “combined plan” by the military would involve both evacuating the civilian population and neutralizing these brigades. Israeli leaders have indicated their intention to expand the invasion of Gaza into Rafah, situated on the border with Egypt.
Netanyahu announced that the Israeli security establishment was gearing up to operate in this densely populated area, stating that soldiers were currently in Khan Younis, identified as Hamas’s main stronghold, and would soon enter Rafah, characterized as the group’s last bastion.
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headquartered in the occupied West Bank, urged Israel’s allies to exert pressure on the government to refrain from sending troops into Rafah.
The ministry emphasized that the responsibility to prevent this potential attack, with the risk of widespread civilian massacres, lies squarely with countries that still uphold Israel’s right to self-defense.