Israel Palestine Conflict

Israel proposes plan to forcibly push Palestinians out of Gaza

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Israel’s military proposed a plan for evacuating civilians from the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Monday, after he said a ground invasion of the Palestinian territory’s southern city Rafah was necessary for “total victory”.

Foreign governments and aid organizations have repeatedly expressed fears that such an operation will inflict mass civilian casualties.

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More than 1.4 million Palestinians – most of them displaced from elsewhere – have converged on the last Gazan city untouched by Israel’s ground troops.

It is also the entry point for desperately needed aid, brought in via neighboring Egypt.

Palestinian kids receive free food in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)
Palestinian kids receive free food in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)

Israel’s military “presented the War Cabinet with a plan for evacuating the population from areas of fighting in the Gaza Strip, and with the upcoming operational plan”, a statement in Hebrew from Netanyahu’s office said Monday.

The statement did not give any details about how or where the civilians would be moved.

The announcement comes after Egyptian, Qatari and US “experts” met in Doha for talks also attended by Israeli and Hamas representatives, state-linked Egyptian media reported, the latest effort to secure a truce before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israel’s ally the United States said ongoing mediation efforts produced “an understanding” towards a ceasefire and hostage release, while a Hamas source said the group insisted on the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

But Netanyahu – who has dismissed the withdrawal demand as “delusional” – said a ground invasion of Rafah would put Israel within weeks of “total victory” over Hamas, whose October 7 attack triggered the war.

“If we have a (truce) deal, it will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen,” he said of the ground invasion in an interview with CBS Sunday.

“It has to be done because total victory is our goal and total victory is within reach – not months away, weeks away, once we begin the operation.”

Amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis, the main UN aid agency for Palestinians urged political action to avert famine in Gaza.

Dire food shortages in northern Gaza are “a man-made disaster” that can be mitigated, said Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

“Famine can still be avoided through genuine political will to grant access and protection to meaningful assistance.”

The UN has said it faces restrictions upheld by Israel, particularly on aid deliveries to northern Gaza.

‘No aid’

Nearly five months into the war, desperate families in Gaza’s north have been forced to scavenge for something to eat.

“We have no food or drink for ourselves or our children,” Omar al-Kahlout told AFP, as he waited near Gaza City for aid trucks to arrive.

“We are trapped in the north and there is no aid reaching us – the situation is extremely difficult.”

Palestinians react as they gather at the site of an Israeli strike on a house. (File photo: Reuters)
Palestinians react as they gather at the site of an Israeli strike on a house. (File photo: Reuters)

Hundreds of Palestinians headed south whichever way they could, walking down garbage-strewn roads between the blackened shells of bombed-out buildings, said an AFP correspondent.

Israeli forces claimed they were striking targets across the Palestinian territory and battling militants in heavy urban combat centered on the southern city of Khan Yunis, near Rafah.

Israel’s military campaign has killed at least 29,692 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Israel waged war on the enclave after Hamas launched its October 7 attack.

With AFP

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