Israeli army ordered to prepare plan to evacuate civilians from Rafah town in southern Gaza Strip in preparation for ground operation

Two days after ordering the Israeli army to “prepare” an offensive on Rafah, the southernmost city of the Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the latter, Friday January 9, to prepare a plan to evacuate the city's population, in anticipation of a land invasion

Israeli army ordered to prepare plan to evacuate civilians from Rafah town in southern Gaza Strip in preparation for ground operation

Two days after ordering the Israeli army to “prepare” an offensive on Rafah, the southernmost city of the Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the latter, Friday January 9, to prepare a plan to evacuate the city's population, in anticipation of a land invasion.

“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,” it is written in the press release released by his office on social networks.

“This is why the Prime Minister asked the IDF (…) to present to the government a double plan, both for the evacuation of the population and for the dismantling of the battalions,” he continues.

Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, more than 1.3 million displaced Palestinians, five times the city's original population, have crowded into Rafah in desperate conditions, according to the UN. Mr. Netanyahu declared on Wednesday, during a speech broadcast on Israeli television, that victory over Hamas was “a matter of months.” “We ordered the Israeli armed forces to prepare an operation in Rafah as well as in two [refugee] camps, the last remaining bastions of Hamas,” added the head of the Israeli government.

Any offensive in Rafah will worsen the “tragedy”, warns the UN

The offensive on Rafah has been feared for several days while the city, located on the edge of the closed border with Egypt, today hosts the majority of the population of the Palestinian territory, pushed towards the south by the raging fighting. since October. Any major offensive by the Israeli army in the city will worsen the “endless tragedy” unfolding there, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, warned on Friday. The situation is “very worrying”, with “an intensification of operations and bombings” which “are getting closer”, explained Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, during a press briefing in Jerusalem.

Aerial bombardments took place Thursday near the UNRWA headquarters in Rafah, fueling tensions and fear among the population there. “There is a feeling of panic” in Rafah because the Palestinians massed there “do not know at all where they could go” in the event of an offensive on the city, already regularly bombarded for several days, notes Mr. Lazzarini.

“I don't know for how much longer we will be able to work in such a high-risk environment,” he also declared, while UNRWA has been in turmoil since Israel declared weeks since some of its members participated in the Hamas attack in Israel on October 7.