Netanyahu promises ‘safe passage’ to Palestinians

Netanyahu, on Thursday said that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) will “soon go into Rafah, Hamas’s last bastion.”…reports Asian Lite News

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the military to chalk out plan for the evacuation of the population from Rafah, his office said on Friday in a statement, ahead of an anticipated ground offensive there, according to CNN.

Rafah, a southern Gaza city, currently houses more than 1.3 million people. The majority of the people, who are living there are basically evacuees from other parts of Gaza, according to the United Nations.

Netanyahu, on Thursday said that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) will “soon go into Rafah, Hamas’s last bastion.”

As the IDF’s operations progressed south into Gaza, many Palestinians fled the territory and sought safety in the city. However, it is unclear where they will travel next; the city borders Egypt to the south, but the border into the nation has been closed for months.

In the statement, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office stated that it was impossible to eradicate Hamas while leaving “four Hamas battalions in Rafah,” according to CNN.

“On the other hand, it is clear that a massive operation in Rafah requires the evacuation of the civilian population from the combat zones.”

“That is why the Prime Minister directed the IDF and the defence establishment to bring to the Cabinet a dual plan for both the evacuation of the population and the disbanding of the battalions,” the statement added.

In a statement issued Friday, the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas slammed the military escalation plan, calling a potential evacuation a “real threat” and “dangerous prelude” to Israeli expulsion of Palestinians from their land, according to CNN.

“The time has come for everyone to bear their responsibility in the face of creating another catastrophe that will push the entire region into endless wars,” the statement said.

Notably, the war between Israel and Hamas began after the latter launched an attack on the former on October 7, where around 1,200 Israelis were killed and around 250 taken hostage.

Israel then launched a counterattack on Hamas and vowed to eliminate the terrorist group.

In the latest development in the ongoing war, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said on Sunday that IDF soldiers operated within a compound in Khan Younis and located AK-47 rifles, ammunition, military equipment, and technological assets.

In addition, IDF troops also located RPGs inside terrorist’s residences.

The war in Gaza was sparked by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Vowing to eliminate Hamas, Israel launched a massive military offensive in Gaza that the territory’s health ministry says has killed at least 28,064 people, mostly women and children.

Militants also seized 250 hostages, 132 of whom are still in Gaza although 29 are presumed dead, Israel has said.

Netanyahu announced the plan for a ground operation in Rafah only days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel seeking a ceasefire and hostage-prisoner exchange.

Netanyahu has rejected the proposed truce after what he said were “bizarre demands” from Hamas.

But Israel’s plans for Rafah have drawn sharp rebuke from main ally and military backer Washington, with the State Department warning that if not properly planned, such an operation risks “disaster.”

In unusually sharp criticism, US President Joe Biden on Thursday called Israel’s retaliatory campaign “over the top.”

Gaza’s Hamas rulers warned on Saturday that a full-scale Israeli invasion of Rafah could cause “tens of thousands” of casualties.

The office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the move “threatens security and peace in the region and the world” and is “a blatant violation of all red lines.”

The Israeli military said it killed two “senior Hamas operatives” in a strike on Rafah Saturday.

It was part of a wider bombardment that killed at least 25 people in the city, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

To the north in Gaza City, Israel’s military claimed that its troops uncovered a Hamas tunnel under the evacuated headquarters of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called for its head, Philippe Lazzarini, to quit.

Lazzarini said the agency had not operated from the compound since October 12 when staff evacuated it under instruction from Israeli forces.

Already under pressure after Israel claimed 12 UNRWA staff were involved in the October 7 Hamas attack, he called for an independent investigation into the latest Israeli accusations.

An AFP photographer was among a number of journalists taken to the compound and tunnel by the Israeli military on Thursday.

UN premises are considered “inviolable” in international law and immune from “search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference.”

Hamas has repeatedly denied Israeli accusations that it has dug a network of tunnels under schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure as cover for its activities.

Arab League warns of dangers if Israel attacks Rafah

The Arab League chief has warned of dangerous consequences if Israeli forces attack Rafah City in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit stressed that Israel’s intention to displace hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who have taken refuge in Rafah as a last resort from indiscriminate attacks on civilians in the enclave, entail serious threats to regional stability.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week said he had told troops to prepare to go into the city, as part of its campaign to destroy Palestinian militant group Hamas for mounting its deadly attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

But he has faced growing calls not to attack Rafah, on the border with Egypt, which is the last refuge for Gazans fleeing Israel’s relentless bombardment elsewhere in the coastal territory.

Jamal Rushdi, the official spokesman for Aboul Gheit, quoted him as saying that pushing hundreds of thousands to flee the Gaza Strip is a violation of international law and international humanitarian law.

“It also represents a dangerous ignition of the situation in the region by crossing the red lines of national security for a large Arab country, Egypt,” Aboul Gheit said.

“The world must pay attention to the danger of (this) Israeli practice driven by an extremist right-wing agenda that wants to empty the Gaza Strip of its population and achieve comprehensive ethnic cleansing, that should have no place in this era.”

Rushdi pointed out that senior figures in the Israeli government had not hidden their intentions to displace and deport the Palestinian population and even to establish Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, which makes international action at this stage necessary to prevent a catastrophe.

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