Israel-Hamas war: Netanyahu orders Rafah 'evacuation' plan

Amid concerns from the US and UN, Israeli forces in Gaza were instructed to submit a plan for evacuating civilians ahead of a planned military operation

Israeli forces have been increasing attacks on the southern Gaza city of Rafah in recent days. (photo: DW)
Israeli forces have been increasing attacks on the southern Gaza city of Rafah in recent days. (photo: DW)
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  • Israeli prime minister instructs military to submit action plan for Rafah assault

  • UN experts believe undercover West Bank hospital killings could be war crime

  • Biden calls Israel's military action 'over the top'

  • US airstrikes target Houthis in Yemen

Netanyahu orders Rafah 'evacuation' plan

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Israel's military had been instructed to submit a "combined plan" for evacuating the population of Rafah in southern Gaza, while "destroying" the remaining Hamas militant battalions in the city.

The statement from Netanyahu's office comes after the US on Thursday expressed concern over Israel's plan for a military operation in the city, where over 1 million civilians are sheltering.

A US State Department spokesperson said it has seen no evidence that Israel had adequately prepared for a ground assault on the city, which was first hinted at by Netanyahu last week.

"To conduct such an operation right now with no planning and little thought in an area" where 1 million people are sheltering "would be a disaster," the spokesperson said.

Rafah, located on Gaza's southern border with Egypt, is one of the last areas in Gaza where Hamas battalions remain.

"It is impossible to achieve the war goal of eliminating Hamas and leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah," said the statement from Netanyahu's office, referring to the number of Hamas militants in the area.

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

IDF says it eliminated Hamas militants and infrastructure

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Friday that a joint naval, air and ground troop operation was carried out in Gaza, to "eliminate terrorist infrastructure and several terrorists."

Israeli troops also got rid of a "terrorist cell" that the IDF said had planted explosive devices near the soldiers.

In the southern neighborhood of Khan Younis, 15 "terrorists" were killed. IDF troops also uncovered weapons such as AK-47s and grenades, the military said.

The IDF also struck several buildings using a directed aircraft, saying the buildings contained explosive devices.

The Israeli military also "eliminated two armed terrorists who were operating adjacent to an armed terrorist cell and Hamas military post," it added.

Arab top diplomats renew cease-fire calls in Riyadh meeting

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar reiterated calls for a cease-fire in Gaza during a meeting in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Thursday.

The meeting, held on the heels of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's latest regional tour, was also attended by the Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Hussein al-Sheikh.

The meeting parties tried to promote a unified Arab position on the conflict, diplomats told the French AFP news agency. The UAE's top diplomat called for preventing the spillover of the conflict, the UAE's state news agency reported.

"The ministers emphasized the need to end the war on the Gaza Strip, reach an immediate and complete cease-fire, ensure the protection of civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law, and lift all restrictions that impede the entry of humanitarian aid into the enclave," the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Those meeting also voiced support for UNRWA, the UN Palestinian aid agency that is under fire over Israeli accusations that 12 staff members were involved in Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, which triggered the war.


"They also stressed the importance of taking irreversible steps to implement the two-state solution and recognize the state of Palestine on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital," SPA said.

The Arab diplomats also renewed their "categorical rejection" of any forced displacement of Palestinians.

107 killed in past 24 hours in Gaza

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said on Friday that 107 people have died and 142 people have been injured over the past 24 hours in the Palestinian enclave.

The figures raise the overall death toll in the besieged strip since October 7 to 27,947, the ministry said. It added that 67,459 more were injured.

Israel, the US and the EU consider Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a terrorist group.

The ministry — whose figures are deemed as largely accurate by UN agencies — does not differentiate between militants and civilians in the casualty statistics it provides.

UN chief calls for cease-fire, warns of humanitarian catastrophe

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called for a cease-fire in Gaza, warning about the potential humanitarian disaster and broader regional fallout if Israel proceeds with its planned offensive in Rafah.

Guterres told a news conference that more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million population were pushed into Rafah, located near the Egyptian border in southern Gaza, following Israel's military offensive, exacerbating an already critical situation.

"Reports that the Israeli military intends to focus next on Rafah are alarming," the UN chief posted on X, formerly Twitter. "Such an action would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences," he said.

The Israeli government's announcement of an offensive near the Egyptian border has heightened humanitarian concerns, with more than a million Palestinians seeking refuge in Rafah.

"They are living in overcrowded makeshift shelters in unsanitary conditions without running water, electricity and adequate food supplies," Guterres said.

Meanwhile, the United States warned Israel of a looming "disaster," with State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel saying that the US did not support an Israeli operation in Rafah.

Biden calls Israel's military action 'over the top'

US President Joe Biden criticized Israel's military action in Gaza as "over the top" as Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in the Gaza Strip killed at least 13 people on Thursday.

Among those killed were two women and five children, according to the Kuwaiti Hospital where the bodies were received.

Biden pushed for a pause in fighting to aid civilians and facilitate the release of hostages.

"There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it's gotta stop," Biden told reporters at the White House.

This is the most substantial criticism from the US as pressure builds on the president to push Israel to stop its operations in Gaza. Biden's latest stance is a departure from his earlier statement in the initial days of the war when he described the death toll in Gaza as "the price of waging a war."

Earlier, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli military was preparing to press in on Rafah and "total victory" over Hamas was just months away. Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by the US, the EU, Germany and other countries.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Gazans have sought refuge in Rafah, the city in southern Gaza on the Egyptian border, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

Egypt has warned that any ground offensive there or mass displacement across the border would jeopardize its four-decade peace agreement with Israel.

US airstrikes target Houthis in Yemen

The US military said on Thursday it conducted airstrikes against Yemen's Houthi rebels, targeting drone boats and anti-ship missile launchers threatening vessels in the Red Sea.

The US Central Command, CENTCOM, posted on X, formerly Twitter, that seven self-defense strikes were conducted in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen as "they presented an imminent threat to US Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region."

The strikes targeted four Houthi crewless surface vessels and seven mobile anti-ship cruise missiles.

CENTCOM had earlier confirmed its strikes against the Houthis late Wednesday following two attacks on US and British ships in the Red Sea.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea over Israel's offensive in Gaza.

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Published: 10 Feb 2024, 11:01 AM
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