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Israel wants Rafah civilians to go to Gaza centre ahead of offensive

Published : 14 Mar 2024 10:32 PM

Israel plans to tell 1.4 million Palestinians displaced in the southern city of Rafah to seek shelter in central Gaza ahead of a planned military offensive into the south.

Civilians would be directed toward “humanitarian islands” that would provide temporary housing, food, water and other necessities, Israel’s chief military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said Wednesday. He did not say when this would occur, nor when the Rafah offensive might begin.

Humanitarian groups fear a military offensive into the densely crowded area would be a catastrophe. Israel says Hamas maintains four battalions in Rafah that it wants to destroy.

Most of Gaza's 2.3 million people have been forced from their homes, with many driven into sprawling tent camps. A quarter of Gaza’s population is starving, the United Nations has warned. Rafah is Gaza’s main entry point for aid.

More than 31,270 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, the territory's Health Ministry says. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in southern Israel during the Hamas-led incursion on Oct. 7 that sparked the war. Around 250 people were abducted. Hamas is believed to still be holding about 100 hostages.