Ground offensive on Rafah begins? : IDF called on Palestinians to evacuate

This morning, the Israeli army began calling on Palestinians to evacuate from the eastern neighborhoods of the city of Rafah, those close to the Israeli border, ahead of a planned offensive in the area in the south of the Gaza Strip

by Sededin Dedovic
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Ground offensive on Rafah begins? : IDF called on Palestinians to evacuate
© Alexi J. Rosenfeld / Getty Images

Israeli Defense Minister Joav Galant told his American counterpart, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, last night that Israel has no choice but to launch an offensive in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Galant informed Austin in a phone call about yesterday's deadly rocket attacks from Rafah on Israeli military positions, his office said.

The minister outlined the efforts Israel is making to reach a hostage release agreement and a temporary ceasefire, noting that Hamas is rejecting any proposal to facilitate this. Galant told Austin that "there is no choice" and that this means "the beginning of an Israeli operation in Rafah." He also thanked for the close cooperation and emphasized that the United States has an important role in advancing the dialogue for the release of hostages held by Hamas, Israeli media reported.

The Israeli army began this morning to call on Palestinians to evacuate from the eastern neighborhoods of the city of Rafah, those near the Israeli border, ahead of the planned offensive in that area in the southern Gaza Strip.

This signaled that an inevitable offensive on the city, where more than a million Palestinians have taken refuge from the conflict, is imminent, according to the Associated Press. The Israeli army has begun to call on Palestinians to evacuate from the eastern neighborhoods of the city of Rafah, those near the Israeli border, ahead of the planned offensive in that area in the southern Gaza Strip.

This signaled that an inevitable offensive in that city is imminent, reported the Associated Press. Civilians are being urged to move to the humanitarian zone of Al-Mawasi and the Khan Yunis area, Israeli media reported. The army is providing instructions via messages, phone calls, and flyers on which neighborhoods must be evacuated and which routes to take to specific humanitarian zones.

It is emphasized that the order applies for now only to the eastern neighborhoods of Rafah, not the entire city, where more than a million Palestinians have sought refuge from the war.

Israel Defense Forces soldiers walk through Kibbutz Beeri© Alexi J.

Rosenfeld / Getty Images

The Israeli army has published a map of these neighborhoods and stated in a press release that "in accordance with approval from the political echelon of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), the population, which is under Hamas control, is called upon to temporarily evacuate from the eastern neighborhoods of Rafah to expanded humanitarian zones." It is added that the action will "progress gradually in accordance with the assessment of the situation." The expanded humanitarian zone in Al-Mawasi and the Khan Yunis area includes field hospitals and tents for displaced Palestinians, and, as the army claims, humanitarian aid recently increased there.

The Kerem Shalom border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip remains closed following yesterday's deadly Hamas rocket attack, which killed three soldiers, but could reopen depending on assessment. Other border crossings remain open, and work continues on the construction of a floating port in central Gaza.

The statement announces the continuation of the pursuit of Hamas in Gaza until all the hostages it holds in captivity are returned home. Evacuation calls come at a time when talks on a ceasefire are underway and ahead of the expected ground offensive that Israel has been announcing for months to destroy the remaining Hamas extremists.

On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Joav Galant assessed that Hamas is not committed to reaching an agreement and warned of a "strong operation in Rafah in the near future." The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) stated today that genocide has been committed in the Gaza Strip and called on all 57 member states to impose sanctions on Israel, in a resolution adopted at the end of the summit in Banjul.

In the resolution adopted at the end of the OIC summit in Banjul, Gambia, seen by Agence France-Presse, the OIC calls on its members to exert "diplomatic, political, and legal pressure" and to impose sanctions against Israel at all "economic, sporting, cultural, and international" levels.

The OIC also calls for an "immediate, permanent, and unconditional ceasefire" in the Gaza Strip. The organization called for a halt to the export of weapons and ammunition to Israel so that such weapons would not be used for "committing genocide crimes in Gaza." Only a few African presidents were in Gambia for the two-day 15th OIC summit.

Most member countries sent their other representatives to the meeting. Established in 1969 after the Al-Aqsa Mosque fire in Jerusalem, the organization aims to increase Muslim solidarity, support the Palestinian struggle, and defend Muslim holy sites.

In November 2023, the OIC met in Riyadh for a joint summit with the Arab League, condemning the actions of Israeli forces in Gaza but refraining from announcing punitive economic and political measures against Israel. Divisions in responding to the conflict were evident then, amid fears of escalating tensions in the region.

This weekend, international attention was more focused on Cairo, where talks were held on a proposed ceasefire linked to the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip, but ended without progress as Israel and Hamas remain uncompromising after seven months of war.

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