Israel Orders New Evacuations From Rafah


Israel ordered more evacuations Saturday from Gaza’s southern city of Rafah and its surrounding areas and has told the civilians there to seek refuge in a humanitarian zone northwest of Rafah. 

About 300,000 civilians so far have moved toward al-Mawasi, according to Israeli military estimates released Saturday. An official with the United Nations humanitarian agency said it had no aid to give the new arrivals. 

“We simply have no tents, we have no blankets, no bedding,” said Georgios Petropoulos, according to The Associated Press. 

About 110,000 people had fled the southern Gaza city of Rafah as of Friday, amid fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants. Israeli bombardments have increased in and around the city, the U.N. said. 

Many of the displaced people are among the 1 million refugees who had found shelter in the border city from other war-torn parts of Gaza. 

“Do we wait until we all die on top of each other? So, we’ve decided to leave,” Rafah resident Hanan al-Satari told the AP as people rushed to load mattresses, water tanks and other belongings onto vehicles. 

“The Israeli army does not have a safe area in Gaza. They target everything,” Abu Yusuf al-Deiri, displaced earlier from Gaza City, also told the AP. 

Cease-fire talks brokered by Qatar and Egypt are back to square one, Hamas said Friday, accusing Israel of rejecting a truce proposal written by the mediators. Negotiators for Israel and Hamas left Cairo late Thursday, ending the latest round of indirect negotiations. 

“There would be a be a cease-fire tomorrow if Hamas would release the hostages,” U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday at a fundraiser in Washington state, according to Agence France-Presse. 

Military offensive 

Despite heavy U.S. pressure against Israel’s impending military offensive and fears by residents and humanitarian groups, Israel has said it will advance into Rafah to weed out thousands of Hamas fighters it believes are hiding there. 

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

The United Nations has warned that if Israel attacked Rafah, which borders Egypt near the main aid entry points, it would cripple humanitarian operations and result in a disastrous surge of civilian casualties. 

The World Food Program earlier said it would be out of food in southern Gaza by Saturday. Aid groups have said that fuel will be depleted soon, forcing hospitals to shut down critical operations. 

Petropoulos, of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Gaza, said Friday that all crossings into the Rafah area are closed, preventing movement of supplies, humanitarian staff or any civilians needing to evacuate. He said even if the Rafah crossing was open, the nearby fighting would make it too dangerous to use. 

Hamas hostages 

The Palestinian militant group Hamas said Saturday that another one of the hostages abducted during its October 7 assault on Israel has died. 

Hamas, a terror-designated organization by the U.S., the U.K. and other Western countries, released a video saying that 51-year-old hostage Nadav Popplewell, died after being wounded in an Israeli strike in Gaza. The validity of the claim could not be verified. 

Popplewell was abducted by Hamas militants from the southern Israeli community of Kibbutz Nirim. 

The Israeli military did not comment on the latest video but has called previous videos of hostages released by Hamas as psychological terror. It has also denied some of the previous accusations by Hamas that hostages were killed by Israeli fire. 

Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv by the tens of thousands Saturday night to demand Netanyahu’s government get the remaining hostages held in Gaza released. 

Mass grave probe 

The United Nations Security Council called Friday for an immediate independent investigation into mass graves allegedly containing hundreds of bodies near hospitals in Gaza. 

Members of the council expressed in a statement their “deep concern over reports of the discovery of mass graves, in and around the Nasser and Shifa medical facilities in Gaza, where several hundred bodies, including women, children and older persons, were buried.” 

They stressed the need for “accountability” for any violations of international law and urged that investigators be given “unimpeded access to all locations of mass graves in Gaza to conduct immediate, independent, thorough, comprehensive, transparent and impartial investigations.” 

Israel has repeatedly struck hospitals in Gaza since the beginning of its military operation in the enclave, which was prompted by the October 7 Hamas attack on Israeli residential communities and a music festival. 

The Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that 34,654 Palestinians have been killed and 77,908 injured since Israel’s military offensive on Gaza began.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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