Israel orders partial evacuation of Rafah, fueling fears of a new offensive

After the Israeli army issued the evacuation order, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reiterated that he was “deeply concerned” about an invasion, while Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry warned Israel against advancing what he called a “bloody and systematic” campaign to storm all of Gaza and displace its residents.

In Rafah, some Palestinians quickly dismantled their tents in the pouring rain and began to leave. Others wondered whether it was safe to leave. Gazans and aid groups said the Israeli military had shelled areas it had previously designated as safe for civilians.

Nidal Kuhail, 29, a former Gaza City resident, said he was overcome with anxiety and divided about what to do. The tent he was taking refuge in was not in the area of ​​Rafah covered by the Israeli evacuation order.

“If we have to leave, we will be entering the unknown,” Kuhail said. “Will we have somewhere to go? Will we be able to find a place to pitch the tent?”

Workers at UNRWA, the main U.N. agency helping Palestinians in Gaza, estimated Monday that about 200 people an hour were fleeing the evacuation zone, said Sam Rose, the agency's planning director.

Israel was telling Palestinians to move to an area that includes al-Mawasi, a coastal area of ​​Gaza where it has been advising people to go for months, as well as areas further north along the coast as far as Deir al-Balah. The military said the area has field hospitals, tents and increased supplies of food, water and medicine.

Israel is not calling for a “large-scale evacuation of Rafah,” a military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Nadav Shoshani, said on Monday. “This is an operation with a very specific purpose at the moment to move people away from danger.”

But Rose said the area would not be able to safely house all the civilians who have taken refuge in Rafah, partly because parts of it are littered with unexploded bombs.

Going there would also move them further from entry points for desperately needed food, water, medicine and other goods, which aid agencies have struggled to distribute in Gaza.

“They will basically go back into oblivion,” Rose said.

Mahmoud Mohammed al-Burdeiny, 26, said he thought Israel used the threat of an invasion of Rafah as a bluff to get a better deal from Hamas in ceasefire talks. But now the danger seemed real, he said.

So Mr al-Burdeiny and his wife began packing their bags and planning for the worst. They realized that they could take the doors of their home with them to use as shelter. And they might dismantle the furniture to use it as firewood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *