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Israel to evacuate population out of Rafah ahead of attack: Officials

Int'l community expresses deep concerns about Israel's plan
11:43 AM Mar 14, 2024 IST | IANS
israel to evacuate population out of rafah ahead of attack  officials
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visits the "Sky Dew" air force base in northern Israel. [File photo]
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Jerusalem, March 14: Israeli officials have said that the country is resolved to attack Rafah, the Gaza Strip's southernmost city sheltering some 1.4 million internally displaced Palestinians by the Israeli strikes elsewhere, and will evacuate most of the residents ahead of the attack.

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Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Daniel Hagari stated in a press briefing on Wednesday that the military intends to guide the population of Rafah towards "humanitarian islands" that Israel planned to create with the international community in central Gaza before launching the offensive, Xinhua news agency reported.

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He said that basic needs, including housing, food and water, would be provided in these designated areas.

Hagari did not mention a date for the beginning of Rafah's evacuation or the commencement of the planned offensive.

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The international community and various humanitarian organizations have expressed deep concerns about Israel's plan to carry out a ground operation in Rafah, a small city densely populated by displaced people, which also serves as Gaza's primary gateway for crucial aid supplies from Egypt. They have warned that any military operation in Rafah would result in a humanitarian catastrophe.

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On Wednesday morning, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited the Gaza Strip and held an operational situation assessment, his office said in a statement.

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During the visit, he "observed the work carried out in preparation for the maritime corridor," which is expected to be used for aid shipments from Cyprus to the war-ravaged enclave.

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Regarding the military plans to conduct a ground operation in Rafah, Gallant said: "Even those who think we are delayed will soon see that we will reach every location necessary."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said the army will expand the offensive into Rafah, where Israel believes some Hamas militants are hiding in underground tunnels.

More than five months of Israel's relentless attacks in Gaza have left much of the Palestinian territory devastated, exacerbating a deepening humanitarian crisis.

According to warnings issued by the United Nations, approximately one in every four of Gaza's 2.3 million population is at risk of starvation.

Since Israel began its retaliatory offensive on October 7, 2023, at least 31,272 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, with more than 75 per cent of them being civilians, according to an update from the Hamas-run Health Ministry. Additionally, more than 7,000 people are missing and are believed to be trapped under the rubble of bombarded homes.

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