Israel Begins Evacuation Operations In Rafah, Gears Up For Push Into Last Hamas Stronghold


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Jake Smith Contributor
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Israel began civilian evacuation operations on Monday in Rafah ahead of a planned ground assault to finish off Hamas’ last major stronghold.

Through text messages, phone calls, media broadcasts and airdropped leaflets, Israel is warning civilians in eastern Rafah to “immediately” begin moving to a humanitarian safe zone in the northern region as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) prepare to move in and operate with “extreme force,” the nation’s military said on Monday. There was a question as to whether Israel would delay or even cancel its plans to invade Rafah if a ceasefire deal was reached with Hamas, but negotiations appeared to hit obstacles on Sunday with no resolution. (RELATED: ‘Hamas’s Mouthpiece’: Israel Raids, Shuts Down News Media Channel)

The initial evacuation operations will affect approximately 100,000 people in Rafah, according to NBC News. There are currently over 1.5 million refugees and civilians in Rafah who have been forced to flee from their homes in the central and northern regions of Gaza amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

“In accordance with the approval of the government, an ongoing situation assessment will guide the gradual movement of civilians in the specified areas in eastern Rafah, to the humanitarian area,” the IDF said on Monday. “The IDF will continue pursuing Hamas everywhere in Gaza until all the hostages that they’re holding in captivity are back home.”

Israel sees an invasion into Rafah as a key element to winning the war against Hamas, whose remaining four battalions are scattered throughout the region. The Biden administration and international allies have urged Israel not to move forward with the invasion, citing concerns over the disproportionate impact it could have on the civilian population.

Israel may have at a minimum delayed a Rafah invasion if it had reached a temporary ceasefire deal with Hamas to free some of the remaining hostages in Gaza, which international negotiators were striving for over the weekend. Hamas sent a delegation to Cairo, Egypt, to discuss the current proposal on Sunday, but the delegation departed later that day without reaching a deal.

The main point of contention during Sunday’s negotiations was how long the ceasefire should last; Hamas wanted Israel to permanently halt all military operations, which Israel has stated it will not agree to.

Hamas has previously rejected several ceasefire proposals, even after Israel made concessions for a deal, such as increasing the amount of Palestinian prisoners it would trade for hostages, or the number of hostages it would want freed.

“Hamas has still held to its extreme positions, first and foremost the withdrawal of our forces from the strip, the conclusion of the war and leaving Hamas intact,” Netanyahu said on Sunday. “Israel will not agree to Hamas’s demands, which would mean surrender; it will continue fighting until all of its objectives are achieved.”

Hamas told Axios on Monday that if Israel pushes into Rafah, it will upend any chances for a ceasefire deal, according to Axios. Israel has identified Rafah as Hamas’ last primary stronghold, The Associated Press reported.

“Netanyahu is under the illusion that a threat to invade Rafah will put pressure on Hamas, but it will only lead to the collapse of the hostage deal talks,” a Hamas official told Axios.

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