Situation in Rafah: Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing a suspected offensive

Situation in Rafah: Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing a suspected offensive

According to an Israeli media report, tens of thousands of people have already left the city in the south of the Gaza Strip ahead of an impending Israeli offensive in Rafah. 150,000 to 200,000 Palestinian civilians have left Rafah since April 7, the Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday, citing the army. The military did not want to comment on the report when asked.

At times, around 1.5 million of the more than 2.2 million people in the Gaza Strip were staying in Rafah. According to aid organizations, more than a million people sought refuge there during the Gaza war.

Evacuation from Rafah could take weeks

Israel’s upcoming military operation against the Islamist Hamas in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip is likely to begin with an evacuation of the civilian population lasting several weeks. It is expected that it could take between four and five weeks to move the population to safer locations, Israeli radio reported on Thursday. This is the first phase of the ground operation in the city on the border with Egypt.

According to information from the Wall Street Journal, Israel’s army plans to proceed gradually to limit the number of civilian casualties. The paper wrote of two to three weeks of evacuation and six weeks of offensive. Israel apparently wants to take the civilians to tent camps, such as the Al-Mawasi camp on the Mediterranean. However, it is doubtful that so many people can be accommodated there. Aid organizations speak of a catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip; a large number of homes in the coastal strip have been destroyed.

On April 7, the Israeli army said it withdrew its troops from the city of Khan Yunis, which is also in the south of the Gaza Strip. Since then, according to the Jerusalem Post, civilians began to leave Rafah in the direction of Khan Yunis. Israel’s military hopes that more civilians will follow suit and move to newly built tent cities in the south and center of the Gaza Strip.

Allies of Israel and Egypt warn

Israel’s allies have been warning for months against such an operation in Rafah because hundreds of thousands of Palestinian internally displaced people are crowding there and there is great concern about high casualties among the Palestinian civilian population.

Israel wants to use the military operation in Rafah to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions. There are also suspected hostages in the city on the border with Egypt who were kidnapped to the Gaza Strip on October 7th in Hamas’ major attack on Israel.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has once again opposed the expulsion of Palestinians into his country. Egypt firmly rejects a “forced expulsion” of Palestinians to Sinai, Al-Sisi said in a televised speech on Thursday. Egypt made this position clear “from the first minute” of the war in neighboring Gaza. A military offensive in Rafah would have “catastrophic consequences” for the region, the presidential office said.

Since the start of the war six months ago, the government in Cairo has become increasingly concerned that Palestinians could cross the border in large numbers. The Rafah border crossing and who is allowed to pass through it is strictly controlled.

Egypt’s government repeatedly emphasizes its support for the Palestinians. At the same time, Egypt supports Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel in 1979.

Source: Stern

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