Israel says it will expand operations in Rafah, Gaza’s last stronghold

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Israeli authorities said on Friday they were expanding their military operation to drive Hamas out of Gaza to one of the last remaining enclaves in the entire strip: Rafah, a city on the border with the Egypt.

“We will complete the mission and continue to Rafah,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant wrote on social media on Friday, describing how Israeli forces had defeated “the militant brigade in a town -destroy the city of Khan Younis, a city less than seven miles to the north.

Aid workers and humanitarian groups warned that Rafah is already dangerously full of civilians who have been displaced at least once, many of whom are sick or close to starvation. Further conflict in the region risks causing serious harm, they said.

“The loss of life that we face if Israel descends into Gaza is enormous,” said Bob Kitchen, vice president of emergencies at the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian relief organization working in Gaza.

Nearly nine out of ten Palestinians in Gaza are displaced

The population of Rafah has increased to “at least” 1.4 million people, Juliette Touma, communications director of the UN agency for Palestinian affairs, UNRWA, wrote in a message. “This is five times the population before the war,” Touma said of Rafah, whose population was estimated at 280,000 by October 7.

Israeli officials have not specified what its plans for Rafah look like. The country’s military has already carried out strikes in the area, including an airstrike near the city’s Kuwaiti Hospital in December that killed at least 18 people, according to hospital staff. .

The war in Gaza has dramatically reshaped the demographics of the conflict. Nearly nine out of ten people living in Gaza are now displaced, according to UN estimates, and World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that “more than 100,000 Gazans are dead, wounded or missing and presumed dead.”

The population of Rafah, Gaza was estimated at 280,000 by October 7. The UN agency said it has since risen to at least 1.4 million people. (Video: Planet)

By October 7, Gaza City in the north was the largest part of the population.

  • On October 13, six days after the Hamas-led attack on Israel that started the war, Israel ordered the evacuation of more than 1 million people living in the areas above the Wadi Gaza wetlands. Many took refuge in Gaza’s second largest city, Khan Younis, in the south.
  • At the beginning of December, Israeli authorities ordered Palestinians in Khan Younis to move to new areas while carrying out military operations in the city.
  • It is estimated that more than half of Gaza’s population is now in Rafah, where many “were living in makeshift structures, tents, or outdoors,” Jens Laerke, spokesman for the Coordination Office UN Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), he said on Friday, saying that the city had become a “pressure cooker of despair.”

Evacuation call schedule

Before that under desertification

Evacuation call schedule

Before that under desertification

Evacuation call schedule

Before that under desertification

Evacuation call schedule

Before that under desertification

A growing humanitarian crisis in Rafah

As Rafah lies on the border with Egypt, humanitarian groups have warned that the amount of aid crossing the border is nowhere near enough to meet the needs of a growing population. desperate.

“People in Gaza are at risk of starvation just miles from trucks full of food,” said Cindy McCain, head of the World Food Programme, in an appeal for new action to allow more trucks in. to Gaza.

One Palestinian supporter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, wrote in a message that the widespread use of tents reminded him of stories his grandfather told him about the living conditions of refugees after 1948 Israeli- Arab War. The tents, which could be up to 200 square feet in size, would house one or two whole families, the aid worker said.

The winter temperatures have added to the misery. “With this cold and wet weather, the tent is the last place anyone would want to be!” they wrote.

Sanitation measures have broken down amid overcrowding. “There are thousands and thousands of people sharing individual toilets,” Kitchen said, adding that IRC staff in Rafah had seen “queues of 4 to 5 hours” to use the bathrooms. . Open defecation and urination create public health hazards.

“We are already seeing large reports of watery diarrhea, which I think, if tested, would have been diagnosed as cholera,” said Kitchen.

The humanitarian crisis has been exacerbated by a political crisis, as at least ten Western governments have suspended funding to UNRWA, the main supply force for aid in Gaza. The decision to freeze funding came after Israel shared a dossier that claimed more than a dozen UNRWA staff had been involved in the October 7 attacks on Israel and were holding – revealed that there was widespread support for Hamas and other militant groups within the group.

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