Israel orders Rafah evacuation as Gaza truce talks stall

The Israeli army appears set to launch its long-threatened assault on Rafah as it instructs Palestinians to leave parts of the city in southern Gaza.

Israeli forces called on Monday for people in Rafah, into which huge numbers of displaced Palestinians were previously pushed, to evacuate to “an expanded humanitarian area”. The move came as Israel and Hamas blamed one another for a breakdown in truce negotiations.

The Israeli military said in social media posts that it “encourages” residents in eastern Rafah to move to an area in al-Mawasi refugee camp, located by the Mediterranean west of Khan Younis.

The army said calls to “temporarily” relocate would be “conveyed through flyers, SMS messages, phone calls and media broadcasts in Arabic”.

“[Israeli forces] will continue pursuing Hamas everywhere in Gaza until all the hostages that they are holding in captivity are back home,” it said.

In a post on X, Israeli army spokesperson Avichay Adraee specified the appeal was to all people in the ash-Shoka area in the neighbourhoods of as-Salam, Janina, Tabet Ziraa and al-Byouk.

An Israeli military spokesperson told journalists about 100,000 people were being evacuated.

A Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters that Israel’s evacuation order and expected offensive is a “dangerous escalation that will have consequences”.

Despite urgent warnings of a humanitarian disaster from his country’s allies, including the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted for weeks that an assault on Rafah must happen.

Israel says the city is a refuge for Hamas command and fighters who must be exterminated as part of Netanyahu’s pledge to deliver “total victory” over the Palestinian group.

However, NGOs on the ground warn that there is no refuge for the huge numbers of people in Rafah. Displaced people were previously pushed into the city by Israeli attacks on other areas of Gaza, and the city’s population is estimated to have swollen to around 1.4 million. Where those people might find safety from a military offensive is unclear.

The UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) warned in a social media post that an Israeli offensive would inflict more suffering and death on a Palestinian population that the health authorities say has killed more than 34,000 since October.


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