Israeli PM Netanyahu orders evacuation of Rafah ahead of expected ground offensive 'to defeat last Hamas stronghold'

9 February 2024, 15:38 | Updated: 9 February 2024, 16:12

This planned evacuation comes, despite the US warning that the assault would be a "disaster".
This planned evacuation comes, despite the US warning that the assault would be a "disaster". Picture: Alamy
Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered Israel's military to prepare for evacuating Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip ahead of an expected invasion.

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Mr Netanyahu says he has created a dual plan to evacuate people from the city of Rafah and to defeat the remaining Hamas forces.

Rafah is the last neighbourhood, where more than half of the territory’s 2.3 million people have sought refuge.

A statement from the prime minister's office has said: "It is impossible to achieve the war objective of eliminating Hamas and leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah.

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

On Friday, Israel bombed targets in Rafah, expanding its offensive in Gaza.
On Friday, Israel bombed targets in Rafah, expanding its offensive in Gaza. Picture: Alamy

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"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."

Read more: Israeli PM rejects Hamas' ceasefire deal as he vows 'total victory' in Gaza 'within months'

Read more: ‘Let’s not make Gaza a graveyard for international law’, Northern Ireland’s FM says as she calls for ceasefire

This planned evacuation comes even with the US warning that the assault would be a "disaster".

Rafah is the last neighbourhood where 2.3 million Gazans have found refuge.
Rafah is the last neighbourhood where 2.3 million Gazans have found refuge. Picture: Alamy

On Friday, Israel bombed targets in Rafah, expanding its offensive in Gaza.

Airstrikes overnight and into today hit two residential buildings, whilst two other sites were bombed in central Gaza - one building being a kindergarten-turned-shelter for displaced Palestinians.

22 people were killed.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry has said that the overall death toll of Palestinians is now reaching 28,000, with two-thirds of the number being women and children.

The statistics do not distinguish between civilians and fighters.

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