War between Israel and Hamas: Palestinians ordered the evacuation of parts of Rafah as the attack approaches

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military on Monday ordered tens of thousands of residents in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah to begin evacuating, a sign that a long-promised ground invasion may be imminent.

The announcement complicated recent efforts by international mediators, including the CIA director, to broker a ceasefire. Hamas and Qatar, the main mediator, have warned that an invasion of Rafah could derail the talks.

Israel described the Rafah crossing as the last important crossing Hamas stronghold after seven months of warIts leaders have repeatedly said they need to carry out a ground invasion to defeat the Armed Islamic Group.

Lieutenant Colonel Nadav Shoshani, army spokesman, said that orders were issued to about 100,000 people to move to a nearby humanitarian zone declared by Israel called Mawasi. He said that Israel was preparing for a “limited-scale operation” and did not say whether this was the beginning of a broader invasion of the city. But last October, following Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7, Israel did not officially announce the launch of a ground invasion that continues to this day.

This move comes a day after Hamas militants carried out a deadly missile attack from the Rafah area, which led to the death of three Israeli soldiers.

Shoshani said that Israel published a map of the evacuation area, and that orders were issued through airdrops, text messages, and radio broadcasts. He said that Israel has expanded humanitarian aid to Al-Mawasi, including field hospitals, tents, food and water.

The Israeli army said on the social media platform X that it would act with “excessive force” against the militants, urging residents to evacuate immediately for their safety.

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Israel’s plan to invade Rafah has ended Raised the global alarm Because of the potential to harm more than a million people Palestinian civilians take shelter there.

About 1.4 million Palestinians, more than half of Gaza’s population, live in the town and its surrounding areas. Most of them have fled their homes elsewhere in the Strip to escape the Israeli attack and now face another painful move, or risk facing the brunt of a new attack. They live in overcrowded camps, overcrowded UN shelters or in crowded apartments, relying on international aid for food, with broken sanitation systems and medical facility infrastructure.

The UN agency that has helped millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank for a decade, known as UNRWA, warned on Monday of the devastating consequences of the attack on Rafah, including more civilian suffering and deaths. The agency said that it will not leave Rafah, but will remain there for as long as possible to continue providing life-saving assistance.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has repeatedly urged Israel not to carry out the invasion, saying it does not have a credible plan to protect civilians.

But even as the United States, Egypt and Qatar push for a ceasefire agreement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu It was repeated last week that the army would move into the town “with or without a deal” to achieve its goal of destroying the city Hamas armed group.

On Monday, Netanyahu accused Hamas of “torpedoing” the hostage deal and not backing down from its “extremist demands” while vowing to prevent the militants from regaining control of Gaza.

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On Sunday, Defense Minister Yoav Galant claimed that Hamas was not serious about reaching an agreement, and warned of a “strong operation in the very near future in Rafah.” His comments came after Hamas attacked Israel’s main aid crossing on Sunday, killing three soldiers.

Shoshani did not clarify whether the upcoming Rafah operation was a response to Sunday’s killing. He said the incident would have no impact on the amounts of much-needed aid entering Gaza because other crossing points remained operational.

But he did not comment on American warnings against invasion and was not clear about whether the evacuation was coordinated with Egypt.

Egypt, Israel’s strategic partner, has said that an Israeli military seizure of the Gaza-Egypt border — which is supposed to be demilitarized — or any move to push Palestinians into Egypt would threaten the four-decade-long peace agreement with Israel.

In Rafah, people received leaflets on Monday morning in Arabic detailing which neighborhoods had to leave and where humanitarian zones had expanded. The leaflets said that relief services would extend from Deir al-Balah in the north to the center of the city of Khan Yunis in the central Gaza Strip.

Palestinians in Rafah said people gathered to discuss their options after receiving the leaflets. Most of them said they did not want to move alone and preferred to travel in groups.

“A lot of people have been displaced here and now they have to move again, but no one will stay here, the situation is unsafe,” Nidal al-Zaanin told The Associated Press by phone.

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Al-Zaanin, a father of five children, works for an international relief organization and was displaced to Rafah from Beit Hanoun in the north at the beginning of the war.

He said people have been concerned since Israeli forces fired on Palestinians as they moved during previous evacuation orders.

Al-Zaanin said that he had packed his documents and bags but would wait 24 hours to see what others would do before moving on. He said he has a friend in Khan Yunis and hopes he can set up a tent for his family.

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