Israel Gaza war: More Rafah evacuations as Israel steps up operations

by 24britishtvMay 12, 2024, 6 a.m. 22
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Israel has told tens of thousands more Palestinians to leave Rafah, as it intensifies military operations in southern Gaza.

Flyers dropped from the air and posts on social media told residents in the city's eastern districts to go to al-Mawasi - a narrow coastal area which Israel calls an "expanded humanitarian zone".

Parts of Rafah where the streets were packed with locals and displaced people just days ago, now look like a ghost town.

Israel has said it will proceed with planned operations in Rafah despite the US and other allies warning that a ground offensive could lead to mass civilian casualties and a humanitarian crisis.

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden said a ceasefire in Gaza was possible as soon as the next day if Hamas released its hostages.

"Israel said it's up to Hamas, if they wanted to do it, we could end it tomorrow. And the ceasefire would begin tomorrow," he told a fund-raising event in Seattle.

Israel says 128 people taken hostage by Hamas on 7 October are unaccounted for, 36 of whom are presumed dead.

Images showed smoke rising over Rafah on Saturday and witnesses quoted by AFP reported air strikes near the crossing with Egypt.

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that during the past day troops had been engaged in "face-to-face battles" with Hamas fighters in Rafah.

The IDF added that soldiers had found "a number of underground shafts" in the area.

In the past day, there have been dozens of Israeli air strikes across the length of the Gaza Strip, with the Israeli military saying it’s targeting what it calls terrorists and terrorist infrastructure.

On Saturday evening the IDF said it was "currently striking Hamas terror targets in the Jabaliya area", in the far north of the Gaza Strip.

Earlier it instructed residents to leave some areas of northern Gaza. It said they should "temporarily evacuate to shelters in western Gaza City".

Israeli media report that several Hamas rockets were fired at Ashkelon overnight, a port city about 10km (six miles) north of the Gaza border. The Times of Israel says three people were lightly injured when one rocket hit their home.

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