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Israel Evacuates 100,000 in East Rafah Hamas Denounces Move

Photo : AFP

The Israeli army has initiated the evacuation of approximately 100,000 individuals from eastern Rafah, located in the southern region of Gaza. This evacuation is in anticipation of a potential ground assault, marking a significant development in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas militants.

The decision to evacuate comes after seven months of intense warfare between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters, resulting in widespread displacement and humanitarian concerns. According to the World Health Organization, around 1.2 million people are currently seeking refuge in Rafah, with many having fled from other areas of Gaza during the prolonged conflict.

Residents of Rafah received instructions via Arabic text messages, telephone calls, and flyers, directing them to move to what the Israeli military has termed an "expanded humanitarian zone" located approximately 20 kilometers away. Witnesses report that some Palestinian families reluctantly complied with the evacuation orders, amidst chilly spring rain and uncertain conditions.

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Hamas, the militant Palestinian group governing Gaza, swiftly condemned the evacuation order as a dangerous escalation of the conflict. Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri accused the United States administration, along with Israel, of bearing responsibility for what he labeled as "terrorism" against the Palestinian population.

In response to inquiries about the evacuation operation, the Israeli military provided limited details, stating that it had initiated the evacuation process as part of a broader operational plan. However, specific reasons for the evacuation and the potential for offensive action were not disclosed.

Residents of Rafah expressed anxiety and uncertainty about their future, with concerns raised about overcrowded conditions in the areas designated by the Israeli military for relocation. Witnesses noted that the proposed relocation sites were already densely populated, leaving little room for additional tents or shelters.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) issued a stark warning about the potential consequences of an offensive in Rafah, stating that such an operation could have devastating effects on the 1.4 million individuals currently sheltering in the area. UNRWA pledged to maintain a presence in Rafah to provide humanitarian aid for as long as possible.

The looming threat of a large-scale offensive in Rafah has raised concerns among international observers and neighboring countries. Western powers and Egypt, in particular, have expressed apprehension about the potential for high casualties and a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Efforts to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas have encountered significant obstacles, with diplomatic initiatives stalling amidst ongoing hostilities. The deadlock in negotiations has fueled tensions and heightened fears of a protracted conflict with severe humanitarian repercussions.

May 6, 2024 5:57 p.m. 8580

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