Despite US warnings, Israel signals it’s going ahead with what could be a ‘disaster’ in Rafah

Despite US warnings, Israel signals it’s going ahead with what could be a ‘disaster’ in Rafah
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Palestinians watch smoke rise in Rafah. Israel has warned civilians to evacuate the eastern part of the city.
Smoke rises in Rafah. Israel has told civilians to evacuate the eastern part of the city.

  • Israel says it has taken control of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing after a military operation.
  • Leaflets were dropped in the eastern part of the city, urging citizens to evacuate.
  • The US put pressure on Israel not to carry out the assault — or at least reduce civilian casualties.

The Israel Defense Forces said on Tuesday it had established operational control of the Gazan side of the Rafah border crossing, after conducting what it called “targeted” strikes against Hamas in the eastern part of the city.

A spokesperson for the Gaza border authority also confirmed the presence of Israeli tanks at the Rafah crossing, according to The Guardian.

The US had earlier said an Israeli invasion of Rafah — a city in southern Gaza where scores of Palestinian refugees have fled — could be a “disaster.”

On Monday, the Israeli military told civilians in the eastern part of the city to evacuate ahead of what it called “extreme force,” which it said it would use against “terrorist organizations” in the area.

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The Israel Defense Forces wrote in a statement on the Telegram messaging app that it ordered civilians to “temporarily move to the humanitarian area,” which is slightly northwest, using a combination of flyers, text messages, phone calls, and Arabic media broadcasts.

Leaflets began to fall on the eastern part of the city at about 9 a.m. local time, according to media reports.

Images from Reuters and Getty Images show Palestinian civilians leaving the area.

Displaced Palestinians are arriving in Khan Yunis with their belongings from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 6, 2024, following an evacuation order by the Israeli army.
Displaced Palestinians are arriving in Khan Yunis with their belongings from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 6, 2024, following an evacuation order by the Israeli army.

The IDF’s evacuation order came a day after US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, that any military operation in Rafah must include a “credible plan” to evacuate Palestinians and maintain the flow of humanitarian aid, according to a Pentagon readout of their call.

More than 1 million Palestinians are estimated to have fled to the city since Israel began its assault on Gaza following the Hamas terror attacks on October 7.

The militant group killed over 1,100 people in the attacks, and hundreds were captured by Hamas fighters.

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The Israeli government has responded with crushing force, launching airstrikes into Gaza that have killed more than 35,000 people, according to Hamas-run Gazan health authorities.

International pressure has been building on Israel and Hamas to reach a cease-fire in the conflict.

Meanwhile, Israel is facing mounting pressure over its handling of the war — including from the US, its ally.

An Israeli soldier directs a tank near the border with the southern Gaza Strip on May 5, 2024.
Israeli soldiers near the border with the southern area of the Gaza Strip on Sunday.

President Joe Biden has previously urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reduce civilian casualties. Past Israeli assaults and strikes have killed aid workers, including seven people with the World Central Kitchen, whose convoy was hit by a drone strike.

In March, John Kirby, a White House national security spokesperson, said a military operation in Rafah could become a “disaster.”

Biden was pressed last month in an MSNBC interview to declare a “red line” for Israel’s leadership; he agreed that a Rafah invasion was one.

The White House, however, later walked back Biden’s statement, The New York Times reported.

Netanyahu-Biden
President Joe Biden with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

In a speech at a Holocaust-memorial event on Sunday, Netanyahu seemingly dismissed criticism of his handling of the war, vowing that Israel would “stand alone” if it was forced to.

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“I say to the leaders of the world: No amount of pressure, no decision by any international forum will stop Israel from defending itself,” Netanyahu said, according to The Associated Press.

The war in Gaza has become a divisive issue in the US, where protests have ignited on college campuses. Demonstrators have demanded that the schools divest from Israel; hundreds of protesters have been arrested.

Meanwhile, Biden is facing pressure from his left flank over his support for sending munitions and military aid to Israel. A group of pro-Palestinian voters has been racking up votes against him in the Democratic primaries, hinting that his fragile coalition to defeat former President Donald Trump, his GOP challenger, could be in danger.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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