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Israel orders 100,000 civilians to leave Rafah, says it will operate with ‘extreme force’

Washington Post, May 6, 2024 at 11:58 a.m. EDT

Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip May 5, 2024. REUTERS/Hatem Khaled TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Israel’s military on Monday ordered about 100,000 civilians in parts of Rafah to evacuate “immediately” to a humanitarian zone, saying it will operate with “extreme force” in those areas. Israel’s determination to invade Rafah remains a sticking point in cease-fire negotiations, which appear to have broken down. President Biden reiterated his opposition to a ground invasion of Rafah in a Monday call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a White House readout of the conversation.

Key updates

Here’s what to know

Israel is preparing for a “limited scope evacuation operation,” Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani said. A member of Hamas’s political bureau, Suhail al-Hindi, warned in an interview with The Washington Post that “Rafah will become a graveyard” for Israeli soldiers should a military operation occur.

The gaz agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) said an Israeli offensive in Rafah would be “devastating” for the1.4 million people sheltering there. It said it was not evacuating Rafah and would stay for “as long as possible” to continue providing aid.

National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told The Post on Monday that the Biden administration believes a deal between Israel and Hamas remains “the best way to preserve the lives of the hostages.”

Four Israeli soldiers were killed and others wounded in a rocket attack on the Kerem Shalom border crossing Sunday, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Hamas claimed responsibility for the strike on the crossing, which was closed for humanitarian aid.

At least 34,735 people have been killed and 78,108 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children.

Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and says 267 soldiers have been killed since the launch of its military operation in Gaza.arrow leftarrow right

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International leaders, aid agencies urge Israel to call off Rafah offensive

By Adela SulimanReporter focusing on breaking U.S. and world news. 

A displaced Palestinian child in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. (Hatem Khaled/Reuters)

International aid agencies as well as officials from the European Union, Jordan, Egypt and others have warned against an Israeli incursion into Rafah in southern Gaza — a refuge for hundreds of thousands of civilians who fled to the city amid Israeli operations elsewhere in Gaza.

“Israel’s evacuation orders to civilians in Rafah portend the worst: more war and famine. It is unacceptable,” E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a tweet Monday. He urged Israel to “renounce” a ground offensive, adding that “the E.U., with the International Community, can and must act to prevent such scenario.”

Egypt, which borders Rafah, also issued a statement Monday warning against a military operation, calling it an “escalatory action” that would create “grave humanitarian risks.” Egypt’s Foreign Ministry urged Israel to “practice self restraint, avoid more escalations in this sensitive time for negotiations.”

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi tweeted Monday that “another massacre of the Palestinians is in the making. Israel is warning Palestinians to leave Rafah as it threatens an attack. All must act now to prevent it.” He added that a failure to prevent the military operation would be an “indelible stain” on the international community. Jordan’s King Abdullah II is in Washington on Monday to meet with President Biden.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said an Israeli offensive in Rafah would be “devastating” for the 1.4 million people sheltering there. The agency said it would not be evacuating from Rafah and would stay for “as long as possible” to continue providing aid.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a statement that an Israeli military offensive in Rafah “could lead to the deadliest phase of this conflict.” He said the “relocation ordersissued by Israel” on Monday were “beyond alarming,” noting that “the area is already overstretched and devoid of vital services.”

“Rafah had become the last refuge for hundreds of thousands of families, deprived of any semblance of safety. With nowhere else to go, they are facing the threat of prolonged displacement and death,” Egeland added.

The International Rescue Committee’s country director, Kiryn Lanning, also said any invasion of Rafah would be “unconscionable.” She added, “this is as bad as it gets and will lead to horrifying levels of suffering and death.”

Israel says the last remaining Hamas battalions are hiding in the city and has argued that a major military campaign there is essential. The United States and others have warned Israeli authorities against such an assault, but Israel has signaled its determination to push forward.

Heba Farouk Mahfouz and Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.






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