Israeli Army asks 100,000 Palestinians to evacuate Rafah

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The Israeli army has ordered some 100,000 Palestinians to begin evacuating from the southern city of Rafah. This signals that a long-promised ground invasion there could be imminent, further complicating efforts to broker a cease-fire in Gaza. Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani, an Israeli army spokesman, said some 100,000 people were being ordered to move to a nearby Israel-declared humanitarian zone called Muwasi. This is a makeshift camp of tents along the coast, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have sought safety and live in squalid conditions. Shoshani said Israel was preparing a “limited scope operation” and would not say whether this was the beginning of a broader invasion of the city. Israel never formally announced the launch of its current ground invasion in Gaza.

Tensions escalated on Sunday when Hamas fired rockets at Israeli troops on the border with Gaza, killing four soldiers. The area that came under fire is near the main crossing for delivering badly needed humanitarian aid. Shoshani added that it would not affect how much aid enters Gaza as others are working. In retaliation, Israeli strikes in Rafah reportedly killed at least 12 people overnight.

A Hamas official calls the evacuation orders “a dangerous escalation”. With a massive operation looming in the city where nearly 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering, a high number of deaths is feared. It has raised global alarm and Israel’s closest allies have warned against it. On Monday, the United Nations agency serving Palestinian refugees said it would not comply with the evacuation order.

Israel describes Rafah as the last significant Hamas stronghold and has repeatedly said the invasion is necessary to defeat the Islamic militant group.

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