Israel has moved closer to a full-scale ground offensive against the southern Gaza city of Rafah, as Benjamin Netayahu ordered military leaders to present a plan to evacuate civilians from the area.
Despite warnings from a senior aid official that an assault on Rafah – where about 1.3 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering – would lead to a “bloodbath”, and the UN urging against forced mass displacement, Israel appeared determined to push ahead.
“It is impossible to achieve the war goal of eliminating Hamas and leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah,” the Israeli prime minister said in a statement, rejecting a warning from the Biden administration that it could not support an offensive against Rafah. “On the other hand, it is clear that a massive operation in Rafah requires the evacuation of the civilian population from the combat zones.”
With more than half of Gaza already under evacuation orders, widespread destruction throughout the coastal strip, and continuing fighting, it was unclear where such a large number of people could safely be moved.
“No war can be allowed in a gigantic refugee camp,” said Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warning of a “bloodbath” if Israeli operations expanded there. A United Nations spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said civilians in Rafah needed to be protected, but the UN did not want to see any forced mass displacement. [Continue reading…]