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6 May, 2024 13:01

Israel orders evacuation of Rafah

The IDF warned of “extreme” military action in southern Gaza, while Hamas decried what it called a “dangerous escalation”
Israel orders evacuation of Rafah

Israel has urged Palestinians to evacuate parts of Rafah, warning that it will take “extreme” military action against Hamas militants in the southern Gaza city. The Jewish state has been preparing for an incursion in Rafah, which is currently home to over a million people, despite warnings against doing so from the US, EU, and UN.

The Israeli military issued “an urgent appeal to all residents and displaced people” living in several neighborhoods of Rafah to “evacuate immediately,” according to Avichay Adraee, the head of the Israel Defense Force’s Arab media division.

“The IDF will act with extreme force against terrorist organizations” in the area, Adraee said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday. There was no clarification on when the military action might start.

A senior Hamas official has told Reuters that the evacuation order was a “dangerous escalation” that would have consequences.

The evacuation call comes a day after Israel closed the main border crossing used to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza. The closure came in response to a Hamas rocket attack that left three soldiers dead and 11 wounded on Sunday.

West Jerusalem claims Rafah is the last significant stronghold of Hamas, and that potentially dozens of Israeli hostages may be held there. Victory over the militant group is impossible without taking the city, the Israeli government insists.

According to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Rafah is currently home to 1.4 million Palestinians who have fled the northern parts of the enclave since October. The international community has sounded the alarm over the number of civilian casualties that a military operation in the city could cause.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell has described the Rafah evacuation order as “unacceptable” and demanded that Israel denounce its ground offensive plan.

The Rafah plan has opened a rift between Israel and its staunchest ally, the US. The administration of President Joe Biden previously declared that an Israeli invasion of the city would be a “red line,” a statement that was dismissed by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. Washington has been under increasing pressure from the UN, pro-Palestinian protesters, and human rights organizations to stop arming Israel.

Netanyahu declared war on Hamas after the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostages. The death toll from Israel’s retaliation in the enclave is approaching 35,000, according to the Palestinian health authorities.

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