Thursday, July 25, 2024

The Israeli Defense Minister says the army is “meticulously planning” an attack on a crowded border town in the Gaza Strip


TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel is “meticulously planning” a military attack in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, signaling its determination to press ahead despite growing international concerns about the safety of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Israel's defense minister said Friday. Those seeking safe housing. Shelter there.

US President Joe Biden urged Israel not to carry out the operation without a “credible” plan to protect civilians and instead focus on a ceasefire, while Egypt said the operation could threaten Diplomatic relations between countries. Many other world leaders have issued similar messages of concern.

It is estimated that 1.4 million Palestinians, more than half of Gaza's population, have gathered in this place. RafahMost of them were displaced by fighting elsewhere in the region. Hundreds of thousands live in sprawling camps.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Defense Minister Yoav Galant said that Israel inflicted heavy losses on Hamas during the war, which is now in its fifth month, and that Rafah is the “next Hamas center of gravity” that Israel plans to target.

He said: “We are carefully planning future operations in Rafah, which is an important stronghold for Hamas.” He declined to say when the operation might begin, although Israel has previously said it would develop a plan first To evacuate civilians.

Palestinians and international relief agencies say there is nowhere safe to go, while Israel is also launching raids on areas where it has told civilians to seek shelter. Including Rafah.

The Israeli army launched its war in response to a cross-border attack Hamas attack on October 7 Which resulted in the killing of about 1,200 people in Israel and the holding of 250 others hostage. The air and ground offensive killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave, caused widespread destruction, displaced about 80% of the population, and sparked a civil war. Humanitarian crisis.

Egypt has repeatedly warned Israel against pushing Palestinian civilians in Rafah across the border, saying the mass influx could spell the end. 979 Peace Agreement Between Israel and Egypt.

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While some Israeli hard-liners have called for Palestinians to be expelled from Gaza, Gallant said there are no plans to do so.

He said: “The State of Israel has no intention of evacuating Palestinian civilians to Egypt.” He added: “We respect and appreciate the peace agreement we concluded with Egypt, as it is the cornerstone of stability in the region and an important partner.”

new Satellite imagesHowever, this indicates that Egypt is preparing for this particular scenario. The pictures show Egypt building a wall and leveling lands near its border with Gaza. Egyptian officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The Israeli offensive has included months of air strikes as well as a ground invasion that has moved steadily south across much of Gaza.

In recent weeks, it has focused on Khan Yunis, the second largest city in Gaza and a Hamas stronghold.

Palestinian health officials in Khan Yunis said on Friday that five patients in intensive care died after running out of oxygen following a raid by Israeli forces on the largest hospital in southern Gaza.

The Israeli army is searching the Nasser Hospital complex, arresting suspected Hamas activists and searching for evidence that the remains of Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas may be there. Israel says it is not targeting patients or doctors, but staff say the facility is suffering under heavy fire and dwindling supplies, including food and water.

Gallant said 70 suspected militants were arrested at the hospital, including 20 who allegedly participated in the October 7 attack.

Two Israeli air strikes on Rafah overnight killed at least 13 people, including nine members of one family, according to hospital officials.

Also on Friday, a Palestinian attacker opened fire on a bus stop at a busy intersection in southern Israel, killing two people and wounding four before a bystander shot him dead. No party immediately claimed responsibility.

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The ceasefire stopped

Meanwhile, negotiations on a ceasefire in Gaza. It seems to have stoppedIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday strongly rejected the US post-war vision – especially its calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

After speaking overnight with Biden and meeting with visiting CIA chief William Burns, Netanyahu wrote on X that Israel would not accept “international dictates regarding the permanent settlement with the Palestinians.”

He said that if other countries unilaterally recognized a Palestinian state, that would give a “reward to terrorism.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected the creation of a Palestinian state, and even bragged that he was instrumental in preventing it during his time in office.

His ruling coalition is dominated by hardliners who oppose Palestinian independence, and any diplomatic process is likely to lead to the collapse of the government.

Netanyahu has pledged to do so Continue the attack Until Hamas is destroyed and more than 100 hostages still in captivity are released.

Biden on Friday urged Netanyahu to postpone the Rafah operation and instead seek a ceasefire that could include the release of Israeli hostages.

“I continue to hope that it will be possible to do so, and in the meantime, I do not expect, and I hope, that the Israelis will not undertake any large-scale ground invasion,” Biden said. “My hope and expectation is that we get this hostage deal.”

UNRWA is under pressure again

Gallant issued new Israeli allegations against United Nations Agency for Palestine RefugeesIncluding a photo of what he said was a UN social worker involved in an Israeli kidnapping on October 7.

Israel has long accused UNRWA of cooperating with Hamas or turning a blind eye to the armed group's activities.

Throughout the war, she posted photos of the tunnels that were built Next to UNRWA facilities Last month she claimed as much 12 UNRWA employees He actively participated in the October 7 massacre.

This prompted the United States and other donor countries to suspend funding for UNRWA, the main provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza. The agency says it will have to cease operations by the end of the month if funding is not restored.

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UNRWA denies cooperating with Hamas and has already dismissed employees accused of the October 7 attacks, and launched two investigations into its operations.

In his presentation to reporters, Gallant said Israeli intelligence had “significant indications” that more than 30 additional UNRWA employees joined the October 7 attack.

He said that approximately 1,500 workers, or 12% of its workforce, are members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, and more than 230 are in its armed wings.

He said: “UNRWA has lost its legitimacy and is no longer able to operate as a United Nations body.” He said that he ordered the Israeli authorities to begin working with alternative organizations that could replace UNRWA.

UNRWA Commissioner Philippe Lazzarini says he takes the allegations seriously, but also noted that the 12 workers identified by Israel are a small portion of UNRWA's total workforce. He warned that halting operations could jeopardize the well-being of Gazans who depend on the agency.

The agency did not comment on Gallant's latest accusations, but said it regularly provides the names of its employees to Israel and takes action against anyone found to be violating UN neutrality rules.

“These shocking allegations come at a time when more than two million people in Gaza have relied on life-saving aid provided by the agency since the start of the war,” Lazzarini said last month.

He added: “Anyone who betrays the core values ​​of the United Nations also betrays those we serve in Gaza, throughout the region and elsewhere around the world.”


Al-Sharafa reported from Rafah, Gaza Strip. Marwa reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed reporting from Washington.


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