800,000 People Flee Rafah Without Safe Options Amid Israeli Military


An estimated 800,000 people have fled Gaza’s southern border city of Rafah since Israel’s military began a ground assault there two weeks ago, the head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said Saturday. 

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini wrote on the social media site X that civilians who had been displaced before are leaving Rafah and heading to “the middle areas and Khan Younis including to destroyed buildings.” 

Lazzarini said people were fleeing to places lacking water or adequate sanitation, including Al-Mawasi, a coastal town, and the city of Deir al-Balah, which are full of recently displaced people.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has expressed objections to the expansion of operations in Rafah, where 1.4 million Palestinian civilians were sheltering before the operation began. 

Heavy clashes and bombings from ground and air rocked Rafah on Saturday, as Israel gained territory in an assault against Hamas militants, according to AFP reporters in the area. 

Israel is conducting what it called “precise operations against terrorists and infrastructure” in Rafah and Jabalia in northern Gaza against re-emerging Hamas militants there. 

Israeli troops and tanks pushed into Jabalia on Saturday, the largest of the Gaza Strip’s eight historic refugee camps where 15 Palestinians were killed, and dozens of others were wounded. 

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry and the Civil Emergency Service, teams received dozens of calls about possible casualties but were unable to answer because of the ground offensive and the aerial bombardment. 

“The IAF (air force) continues to operate in the Gaza Strip and struck over 70 terror targets during the past day, including weapons storage facilities, military infrastructure sites, terrorists who posed a threat to (Israel Defense Forces) IDF troops, and military compounds,” the military said in a statement. 

In what Israeli media said was the result of intelligence gleaned during the latest incursions, the military announced the recovery of the body of a man who was among about 250 hostages taken by Hamas militants in their October 7 attack. 

Ron Binyamin’s remains were found along with those of three other hostages, whose recovery was announced Friday, the military said. It did not provide further details. 

There was no immediate comment from Hamas. 

The armed wing of Hamas, along with the Islamic Jihad, and Fatah said they attacked Israeli forces in Jabalia and Rafah with anti-tank rockets, mortars, and explosive devices planted in some of the roads, killing and wounding many soldiers. 

Israel’s military said 281 soldiers have been killed in fighting since the first ground incursions in Gaza on October 20. 

The war was triggered by the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and led to the kidnapping of about 250 hostages, according to Israeli officials. Hamas has been designated a terror organization by the U.S., the U.K. and other countries. 

Israel’s subsequent counteroffensive in Gaza has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry, which includes civilians and combatants in its count but says most of the dead are women and children. 

Aid agencies have warned repeatedly of widespread hunger and dire shortages of fuel and medical supplies in the enclave. 

Humanitarian aid into Gaza 

Trucks began delivering aid shipments Friday through a U.S.-built, temporary pier on the coast of the Gaza Strip. The U.N. says famine is looming for hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza and the war between Israel and Hamas threatens to derail humanitarian aid operations. 

The World Food Program said on Saturday that 10 truckloads of food arrived from the pier at its warehouse in Deir al-Balah. The food — high-energy biscuits, rice, pasta and lentils — was to be distributed by WFP partners. 

Supplies will be subject to Israeli security checks in Cyprus before arriving on the pier and will have to go through additional Israeli checkpoints once they land, U.S. administration officials have said. 

However, the U.N. said that truck convoys arriving by land were the “most viable, effective and efficient” method of getting aid into Gaza. 

“To stave off the horrors of famine, we must use the fastest and most obvious route to reach the people of Gaza — and for that, we need access by land now,” U.N. deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said. 

The Rafah crossing — a key humanitarian aid corridor on the Egyptian border — has been closed since the Israeli military launched what it called a “limited” operation in Rafah city on May 7. 

The United Nations and other aid groups have said that Israel needs to do more to get aid into Gaza, which has been devastated by the war.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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