Middle East

Israel begins Rafah evacuation ahead of planned military operation

The Israeli military called on residents of eastern Rafah, in southern Gaza, to evacuate to an "expanded humanitarian area," ahead of a possible offensive.

Tel Aviv: The Israeli military called on residents of eastern Rafah, in southern Gaza, to evacuate to an “expanded humanitarian area,” ahead of a possible offensive.

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The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), on Monday, said that it “encourages” residents of eastern Rafah to move to an expanded humanitarian area in the al-Mawasi refugee camp on the Mediterranean, not far from the border with Egypt.

“In accordance with the approval of the government, an ongoing situation assessment will guide the gradual movement of civilians in the specified areas to the humanitarian areas,” the IDF said in a Telegram post.

The IDF characterised the evacuation as “temporary,” adding that calls for the relocation would be “conveyed through posters, SMS messages, phone calls and media broadcasts in Arabic.”

“The IDF will continue pursuing Hamas everywhere in Gaza until all the hostages that they are holding in captivity are back home.”

In a follow-up post, the IDF told Gaza residents that it “will continue fighting the terror organisations that use you as human shields.”

Indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian militant organisation Hamas in Cairo at the weekend on a ceasefire in the Gaza war and the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners failed to produce any results.

Israel wants to use the military operation in Rafah to smash the remaining Hamas battalions. Hostages captured during the October 7 attacks, which triggered the conflict, are also believed to be held in the city on the border with Egypt.

Israel’s allies have been urgently warning against a Rafah offensive because hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Palestinians have moved there.

Overnight, Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant spoke with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin, Gallant’s office said.

Gallant briefed Austin on the Sunday Hamas attack, in which approximately 10 projectiles were fired from the area adjacent to the Rafah crossing towards the Kerem Shalom humanitarian crossing area. Three Israeli soldiers were killed in that attack.

Kerem Shalom is the most crucial border crossing for the delivery of aid from Israel to Gaza Strip. The army temporarily closed it to humanitarian shipments after the rocket attack. The military then reportedly bombed the site in the Gaza Strip near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, where the attack had originated.

Gallant’s office said the minister discussed the hostage release efforts and said that at this stage, Hamas refuses the frameworks at hand, adding that military action is required since there is a “lack of an alternative.”

The state of Israel cannot tolerate a situation in which Hamas continues to attack its citizens while showing a “lack of seriousness” in releasing the hostages.

Israel is committed to achieving its war goals, the spokesman said — the destruction of Hamas and the return of the remaining 132 hostages still in Gaza.

Gallant expressed his appreciation to Austin for the US and its “partnership and leadership” and highlighted the US’ important role in the hostage issue.

Israel said that it wanted to evacuate the city before conducting combat operations in Rafah. This is expected to take several weeks.

Hamas has prepared its fighters in Rafah for deployment against Israel and supplied them with provisions and weapons, according to reports from Israel.

The number of militants guarding the hostages has also increased, according to media reports.

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