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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Rafah targeted by Israeli attacks following Biden’s demand for Netanyahu to devise a ‘credible’ civilian protection plan


RAFAH, Gaza ⁢Strip — Early Monday morning, Rafah, a ⁤city located on the southernmost tip​ of the Gaza⁣ Strip, ‍was subjected to a series of Israeli strikes. This city has ⁤become a‌ refuge for approximately 1.4 million Palestinians who​ have⁣ fled from⁢ the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas ​that ⁢has been raging​ for four months.

Israel has been hinting that⁤ its ​ground offensive⁤ in⁢ Gaza may soon shift its focus to Rafah, a densely populated city situated on the Egyptian border. On Sunday, the White House announced that President Joe Biden had ‌cautioned ​Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against launching a‍ military ‌operation ⁢against Hamas in Rafah without a solid and feasible⁤ plan to safeguard ‍civilians.

The strikes targeted the vicinity of Kuwait Hospital early Monday morning,‌ according to an Associated Press journalist stationed in Rafah. Some of the‍ injured from the strikes were transported‍ to the ‌hospital for treatment.

The Israeli ‍military confirmed that it had targeted “terror ⁢sites in the Shaboura area” — a ⁢district in Rafah. The military statement did not provide further details about the targets or the potential damage or casualties, only stating that the‌ series‌ of strikes had concluded.

Palestinian ⁤health officials have yet‌ to provide any information ‍regarding‍ casualties.

Biden’s comments represent his strongest stance⁢ yet on the potential operation. Last week, Biden criticized Israel’s military response in⁣ Gaza as ⁣”excessive,” and called for “immediate⁤ and specific” measures⁢ to bolster ‌humanitarian ⁢aid. According to Israel’s‌ Channel 13 ⁢television, the conversation between Biden and Netanyahu lasted for 45 minutes.

A senior U.S. administration official revealed ⁢that much of the call was spent discussing the potential ⁤for a cease-fire agreement. After weeks of diplomatic efforts, a “framework” is now “largely” in place for⁣ a deal that ‍could‍ result in the release of remaining​ hostages held by Hamas in exchange⁤ for a cessation of ‍hostilities.

The official, ‍who‌ requested anonymity to discuss the‍ negotiations, admitted that “gaps remain,” but declined to provide further details. The official also noted that recent military ‍pressure on Hamas in ‌the southern city of Khan Younis has brought ⁤the group closer to accepting a deal.

Netanyahu’s office did not comment on the ​call. Earlier, Hamas’ ​Al-Aqsa television station quoted ‌an unnamed Hamas official who warned that any invasion of Rafah would “derail” the talks mediated by the ‌United States, ​Egypt,‌ and Qatar.

Biden and⁢ Netanyahu’s conversation occurred after two Egyptian officials ‍and ‍a Western diplomat revealed that Egypt had ⁤threatened to suspend⁤ its peace treaty with Israel​ if troops were deployed in Rafah. Egypt is concerned that‌ fighting​ could force Palestinians into⁢ the Sinai ⁢Peninsula and necessitate the closure of Gaza’s primary aid supply ⁤route.

The threat to suspend the Camp David Accords, a key pillar of regional stability for nearly ⁣half a century, came after​ Netanyahu stated that deploying troops into Rafah was necessary to​ win the four-month ⁣war against Hamas. He claimed ⁤that Hamas has four‌ battalions stationed there.

More than half of Gaza’s population‌ of 2.3 million have sought refuge in Rafah to‌ escape fighting in other ​areas. They are crammed into tent camps and shelters run ⁣by the U.N. Egypt is worried ​about a potential mass influx ‍of Palestinian refugees who may never be allowed to return.

Netanyahu​ told “Fox News Sunday”‌ that there’s⁣ “ample space north of Rafah for them to relocate to” after Israel’s offensive elsewhere in ⁢Gaza. He added that Israel would guide ‍evacuees with “leaflets, mobile ⁣phones, and⁢ safe corridors among other things.”‍ However, the offensive has ⁤caused widespread⁣ destruction, leaving little capacity to accommodate people.

The standoff between Israel and ‍Egypt, ⁢two ​close U.S. allies, has emerged ‍as aid groups warn that an ⁤offensive in ⁢Rafah would exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. Approximately​ 80% of residents have fled their homes, and the U.N. reports that a​ quarter⁢ of the population is at risk of starvation.

A ground operation in Rafah could sever one of the only‍ routes for delivering food⁣ and medical supplies. Wael Abu⁣ Omar,​ a spokesman for the Palestinian‍ Crossings ‌Authority, reported that forty-four trucks of aid entered Gaza on Sunday. ⁢This is a significant decrease‌ from the approximately 500 trucks that‌ entered daily before the war.

Officials, who​ requested anonymity due to the sensitive⁣ nature of the negotiations, revealed that‌ Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other countries have also warned of severe consequences if Israel invades Rafah.

“An Israeli offensive on Rafah would ⁢result in an unimaginable humanitarian disaster and serious tensions with Egypt,” wrote European Union​ foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on X. Human Rights Watch stated that⁤ forced displacement constitutes a war crime.

Israel and Egypt have fought five wars before signing the Camp David Accords, brokered by ‍the U.S., in the late 1970s. The agreement includes provisions governing the deployment of forces on both sides of the heavily fortified border.

Egyptian​ officials are concerned that if the border is breached, the military would be unable to prevent a flood of people fleeing into the Sinai Peninsula.

The United ⁣Nations reports that Rafah, which normally has a population of fewer than 300,000,⁣ is now ⁤hosting an ‌additional 1.4 million people and is “severely overcrowded.”

Inside Rafah, some displaced ⁣people ⁢are on the move again. Rafat and Fedaa Abu⁤ Haloub, who fled from Beit Lahia in the north earlier in the ‍war, loaded their belongings​ onto a truck. “We don’t know where we can safely take him,” Fedaa said of their baby. “Every month we have to move.”

Om Mohammad Al-Ghemry, displaced from Nuseirat, expressed her‌ hope that Egypt would not allow Israel to‌ force Palestinians to flee into the Sinai “because we​ do not want ⁣to leave.”

Heavy fighting continues in central ⁤Gaza and Khan Younis.

On Sunday, Gaza’s Health‌ Ministry‍ reported that the bodies⁤ of 112 people killed across the territory had been brought ⁢to hospitals in the past 24 hours. The death toll since the ​start of the war stands ⁤at 28,176. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and fighters but states that the majority of those killed were ​women and children.

The ​war ‍began ⁢with a Hamas attack into southern Israel on Oct. 7, during which Palestinian⁣ militants killed approximately ‍1,200 people and abducted around 250. Over 100 hostages ⁢were released during ⁣a cease-fire in November.

Hamas has stated that it will not release⁤ more hostages⁢ unless Israel ends its offensive and withdraws ⁤from Gaza. Netanyahu has rejected both demands.

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  1. Disagree. It’s disheartening to witness the ongoing cycle of violence and destruction in Rafah. Civilians should not bear the brunt of political disagreements. The situation requires immediate diplomatic intervention to protect innocent lives.


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