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Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana/PA Images
Humanitarian Crisis

Gaza: 150,000 people have fled Rafah city as more evacuation orders issued by Israel

UN chief Antonio Guterres said that Gaza risks an “epic humanitarian disaster” if Israel launches a full-scale ground operation in Rafah.


THE ISRAELI MILITARY today ordered more Palestinians to leave areas of eastern Rafah and the northern Gaza Strip as it pressed ahead with its plans to launch a full-scale invasion of the southern city where about half of Gaza’s population has taken refuge. 

The latest evacuation order, which some residents told AFP they had received via text and audio messages to their phones, comes days after Israeli tanks and troops entered Rafah and seized a key crossing on the Egyptian border, cutting of aid supplies to the area. 

Residents and displaced Gazans were told to leave parts of Rafah’s Shabura refugee camp, administrative area, Jenina and Khirbet al-Adas neighbourhoods, and head to the coastal “humanitarian area” in Al-Mawasi, which is a small sandy patch of land with little or no infrastructure. 

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said that at least 300,000 people in Rafah would be affected by the order to evacuate. The agency estimated that 150,000 people have now fled the city since Monday. 

No food, water, fuel or medical supplies have entered the Gaza for the last six days, since the Israeli military took control of the Rafah border crossing and closed another.

Aid groups and UN officials have warned that the Al-Mawasi area is already overcrowded and not ready to receive an influx of people.

The Israeli military previously designated  Al-Mawasi as a “safe zone” for refugees in Gaza but then bombed it.

Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee posted the order in Arabic on social media platform X, saying these areas had “witnessed Hamas terrorist activities in recent days and weeks”.

Images on social media showed leaflets with the latest order, which the army said in a statement it had distributed in the affected areas.

Suhaib al-Hams, a hospital director in Rafah, said in a video message to journalists that “sadly, the Kuwait Speciality Hospital is now included in the places threatened with evacuation”.

“There is no other place for patients and injured people to go to but this hospital,” Hams said, urging “immediate international protection” for the medical facility.

The Israeli army on Monday issued its first evacuation order for parts of eastern Rafah, saying it was in preparation for a widely anticipated ground assault.

Israeli officials have repeatedly vowed to send ground troops into Rafah, where the majority of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have sought shelter, saying there were four Hamas battalions in the southern city that needed to be destroyed.

Adraee said in his statement that evacuation orders were also issued to Palestinians in northern Gaza’s Jabalia and Beit Lahia, areas that saw intense fighting in the early stages of the seven-month war.

“You are in a dangerous combat zone,” Adraee said.

“Hamas is trying to rebuild its capabilities in the area, and therefore the IDF (army) will work with great force against terrorist organisations in the area.”

Israeli forces have repeatedly targeted Jabalia and Beit Lahia, as well as other parts of northern Gaza, since the army launched its ground operation in the besieged on 27 October.

Israel’s massive military campaign in Gaza began after Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on 7 October that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 34,943 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

US criticism

Earlier, the United States criticised Israel’s use of American weapons in Gaza but did not stop the supply of those weapons. 

Israel’s main international ally said in a report released yesterday that it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel has used weapons in ways inconsistent with international humanitarian law during the seven-month war on Gaza. 

But the long-awaited State Department report said it could not reach “conclusive findings” and stopped short of blocking weapons shipments.

Relations between the two allies slumped earlier in the week after US President Joe Biden said he would halt some arms deliveries if Israel went ahead with a full-scale assault on Rafah threatened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US has warned that the reputational damage Israel will suffer if it storms a city will far outweigh any possible military gain.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said yesterday that Gaza risks an “epic humanitarian disaster” if Israel launches a full-scale ground operation in Rafah, while France urged Israel to cease its operations in Rafah “without delay”.

EU Council President Charles Michel said on X today that “Evacuation orders for civilians trapped in Rafah to unsafe zones are unacceptable”.

“We call on the Israeli government to respect international humanitarian law and urge not to undertake a ground operation in Rafah,” he said. 

The Israeli Prime Minister has said repeatedly that Israel cannot defeat Hamas and eliminate any possibility of the militant group repeating its 7 October attack without sending ground troops into Rafah in search of remaining Hamas fighters.

Netanyahu struck a defiant tone on Thursday, vowing: “If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone.”

The White House renewed its opposition yesterday but said it saw no major operation yet against the city.

“We’re obviously watching it with concern, of course, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say what we’ve seen here in the last 24 hours connotes or indicates a broad, large (or) major ground operation,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

With reporting from  © AFP 2024 

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