Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed occupation forces to develop a comprehensive plan for evacuating Palestinian civilians from the densely populated southern Gaza city of Rafah and defeating Hamas, according to Reuters.
The decision comes amid increasing pressure on Israel over its potential ground assault on Rafah, where a significant number of the two million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge, many confined near the border fence with Egypt, residing in makeshift tents.
In response to the Palestinian resistance’s attacks on October 7, US President Joe Biden criticized Israel’s reaction as “over the top,” and Washington asserted that it would not support any military operation in Rafah without adequate consideration for civilians.
Aid organizations have expressed concerns about a potentially high Palestinian death toll if Israeli forces enter Rafah, highlighting the growing humanitarian crisis in the city situated along the Egyptian border.
Netanyahu’s office stated, “It is impossible to achieve the goal of the war without eliminating Hamas, and by leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah. On the contrary, it is clear that intense activity in Rafah requires that civilians evacuate the areas of combat.”
Consequently, the Prime Minister has directed the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the security establishment to present a comprehensive plan to the Cabinet, encompassing both the evacuation of the population and the neutralization of the Hamas battalions.
This announcement follows Netanyahu’s rejection of a Hamas ceasefire proposal, which also involved the release of prisoners of war held by the Palestinian group. However, the statement did not provide specific details about the evacuation and destruction plan.
As Israel’s military campaign in Gaza shifts southwards, Rafah has become a focal point, raising concerns from the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Secretary-General Jan Egeland, who emphasized that conducting a war in a massive refugee camp is unacceptable, warning of a potential “bloodbath” if Israeli operations intensify in the area.