Israel-Hamas War, Day 201: Israel says it is “moving forward” with preparations for its Rafah operation; Hamas releases video of Israeli hostage

On the 201st day of the war between Israel and Hamas, the Israeli army carried out new deadly strikes on Wednesday April 24 in the Gaza Strip

Israel-Hamas War, Day 201: Israel says it is “moving forward” with preparations for its Rafah operation; Hamas releases video of Israeli hostage

On the 201st day of the war between Israel and Hamas, the Israeli army carried out new deadly strikes on Wednesday April 24 in the Gaza Strip. Early Wednesday, hospital and security sources in Gaza reported airstrikes in the Nuseirat (center) and Rafah sectors.

A total of 79 Palestinians were killed in twenty-four hours, according to the Hamas health ministry. An Agence France-Presse correspondent also reported intense airstrikes and artillery fire in Gaza City and the north of the besieged territory.

A government spokesperson, David Mencer, said Wednesday that “Israel is moving forward with its operation targeting Hamas in Rafah.” “The four [Hamas] battalions remaining in Rafah cannot escape Israel, they will be attacked,” he also assured. Since the start of the ground offensive in the Palestinian territory on October 27, “at least 18 or 19 of the 24 battalions” of Hamas have been defeated, he continued.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly declared that Israel intends to carry out an assault on Rafah, the city where hundreds of thousands of Gazans, displaced by the war, are refugees. Mr. Netanyahu insists that the annihilation of the last Hamas battalions in Rafah is crucial in pursuing the objectives of the war against Hamas, the Islamist movement which has taken power in the coastal territory since 2007.

But NGOs and a growing number of countries – and even the historic American ally – oppose this operation, fearing that it will cause many civilian victims. According to Egyptian officials, cited by the Wall Street Journal, Israel is preparing to move civilians from Rafah to the nearby town of Khan Younes, in particular, where it plans to set up shelters and food distribution centers. Such an operation “would be a crime,” the director of the government press office in Gaza, Ismaïl Al-Thawabta, told Agence France-Presse (AFP), assuring that the center of Gaza and the town of Khan Younès “will not absolutely cannot accommodate” the displaced people of Rafah.

In the aid plan of 95 billion dollars (nearly 89 billion euros) adopted by the American Congress and promulgated on Wednesday by Joe Biden, more than thirteen billion dollars (around 12 billion euros) will be provided to Israel . These funds will be used in particular to strengthen the Israeli anti-missile shield, the “Iron Dome”.

More than $9 billion is also planned to address the “urgent need for humanitarian assistance” of “vulnerable populations around the world,” including in Gaza and Sudan. After promulgating this text, the subject of long months of negotiations, Joe Biden called on Israel to “ensure that all this aid reaches the Palestinians without delay”.

The Palestinian Islamist movement broadcast on its Telegram channel on Wednesday a video of one of the Israeli hostages kidnapped and taken to Gaza during its October 7 attack in Israel.

The hostage, who appears alone on screen, sitting on a plastic chair in front of a white wall, introduces himself as Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, kidnapped at the Nova music festival. He says the hostages are “underground,” lacking water and food, as well as medical care. He says he was seriously injured on October 7 and shows his amputated left forearm just below the elbow. He accuses Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the Israeli government of having “abandoned” thousands of Israelis on October 7 and of having also “abandoned” the hostages since, demanding that they return them home.

His family authorized the publication of “the video of their son,” according to a press release from the Hostage Families Forum, an association representing some of the hostage families. “This heartbreaking video is an urgent call to take rapid and meaningful action to resolve this terrible humanitarian crisis and ensure the safe return of our loved ones,” the Forum added in its statement. AFP was unable to establish the date on which the video was filmed but the hostage indicates that he has been a prisoner for “nearly 200 days”. Wednesday marks the 201st day the hostages have been held.

The European Union announced Wednesday through a spokesperson that it wanted an “independent” investigation after the discovery of mass graves in the two main hospitals in the Gaza Strip. “This is something that compels us to call for an independent investigation into all the suspicions and circumstances” of this discovery, “because it creates the impression that there could be human rights violations,” said a spokesperson. -spokesperson of the EU diplomatic service, Peter Stano.

A civil defense official in the Gaza Strip told AFP on Tuesday that his teams had discovered the bodies of around 340 people in mass graves on the grounds of the Nasser hospital since Saturday. The United Nations (UN) had already called on Tuesday for an international investigation into these mass graves. The Israeli army has denied any responsibility. The claim that she “buried the Palestinian bodies is baseless,” she said.

The Israeli army announced on Wednesday that it was carrying out an “offensive action” in southern Lebanon, where it claimed that its air force and artillery struck forty Lebanese Hezbollah targets and killed half of its commanders in this sector. “Troops are deployed in large numbers on the border and the armed forces are currently carrying out offensive actions throughout southern Lebanon,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a statement.

This offensive could be a response to Hezbollah which announced on Tuesday that it had fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel, in retaliation for the death of two civilians in southern Lebanon in a strike blamed on Israel.