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Rafah: Hundreds of thousands on the run – Israel’s invasion in pictures

Rafah: Hundreds of thousands on the run – Israel’s invasion in pictures

An Israeli national flag flies on a tank in the Rafah border area. Israeli forces have advanced into parts of the city in the southern Gaza Strip, fueling fears of a serious military offensive. The Rafah border crossing into Egypt is under “operational Israeli control” on the Palestinian side, a senior Israeli military official said on Tuesday. Most civilians and representatives of international aid organizations had already left the area on Monday after the army called for evacuation, the military said.

An offensive on Rafah has been planned for a long time in Israel’s fight against the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip. There are international concerns that the military operation could have serious consequences, particularly for the civilian population. The Israeli war cabinet decided on Monday to continue the military operation in Rafah in order to increase military pressure on Hamas and achieve its own war goals.

Israel speaks of “precise anti-terror operation” in Rafah – Hamas gives the green light for a ceasefire

The Israeli military representative said on Tuesday about the current developments that it was a “precise anti-terror operation on a very limited scale.” Special troops searched the Rafah crossing for terrorists. There are indications that Hamas has misused the Gaza side of the crossing for terrorist purposes. Members of the Hamas military wing fired rockets from the area on Sunday at the Israeli border crossing at Kerem Shalom. Four Israeli soldiers were killed. The border crossing for humanitarian aid remains closed after the attack, but they want to reopen it as quickly as possible. Kerem Shalom is the main border crossing for the delivery of aid from Israel to the Gaza Strip.

The news portal Axios reported, citing Israeli government officials, that the deployment of tanks and ground units east of Rafah was to be understood as the first phase of the offensive. The takeover of the Rafah border crossing was not only intended to demonstrate Hamas’ loss of power in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians with no connection to the Islamists should then be involved in the distribution of aid coming from Egypt to the isolated coastal area.

Israel’s move into Rafah comes at a critical time. Only on Monday evening did Hamas declare its approval of a negotiation proposal for a ceasefire. According to Israeli information, however, this proposal does not meet Israeli demands. The Israeli military said it was studying the proposal. Israel will send a delegation to Cairo. There will be another meeting of negotiators there on Tuesday to enable a ceasefire, the release of hostages and prisoners and the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, as the Gulf Emirate of Qatar announced overnight. Qatar, Egypt and the USA act as mediators between Hamas and Israel, which, as a matter of principle, do not negotiate directly with each other.

Hamas’s announcement that it had signaled its approval sparked jubilant scenes on the streets of the Gaza Strip. In Rafah, Gaza City and other places, people poured into the streets to celebrate. However, the Israeli side’s reaction and subsequent events raised doubts as to whether a breakthrough had really been achieved.

International criticism of Rafah offensive

With the military operation in Rafah, Israel wants to destroy the remaining battalions of the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas, which it has been fighting in Gaza since October. The Hamas leadership and hostages are believed to be in the city. The Gaza war was triggered by the unprecedented massacre with more than 1,200 deaths that terrorists from Hamas and other groups carried out in Israel on October 7th.

In recent weeks, Israel’s allies have repeatedly criticized the expected ground offensive in Rafah and tried to dissuade Israel’s government from doing so, as the crowded city is home to numerous refugees who have sought refuge from fighting in other parts of the Gaza Strip. Israel on Monday asked about 100,000 Palestinians to leave Rafah for security reasons. Affected residents should go to the Al-Mawasi area near the coast.

Source: Stern

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