IDF calls on Palestinians to evacuate eastern Rafah; Hamas calls it 'dangerous escalation'

Hamas has warned that an invasion of Rafah could derail the talks 

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS/GAZA-RAFAH People grab flour bags from a truck after the Israeli military began evacuating Palestinian civilians ahead of a threatened assault on Rafah | Reuters

Signalling that a ground invasion could be imminent, the IDF on Monday ordered Palestinians in the Southern Gaza city of Rafah to evacuate, a move Hamas termed as 'dangerous escalation'.

Israel's latest decision to move forward with invasion is likely to complicate last-ditch efforts by international mediators, including the director of the CIA, to broker a cease-fire. Hamas and Qatar, a key mediator, have warned that an invasion of Rafah could derail the talks. 

Over a million Palestinian civilians are currently sheltering in Rafah, of which over 100,000 are currently in the zone where the IDF called for evacuation.

"In accordance with the approval of the political echelon, the IDF calls on the population, which is under the control of Hamas, to temporarily evacuate from the eastern neighborhoods of Rafah to the expanded humanitarian zone," a statement by the IDF said. 

The civilians have been asked to move to an expanded humanitarian zone in the al-Mawasi and Khan Younis areas of southern Gaza, reported The Times of Israel. The IDF have also started to drop flyers in eastern Rafah, send text messages, and make phone calls to Palestinians with instructions on the areas that need to be evacuated, and which routes to take to a designated humanitarian zone.  

Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani, an army spokesman, told reporters that some 100,000 people were being ordered to move to al-Mawasi. He said Israel was preparing a limited scope operation but did not comment on whether or not this was the beginning of a broader invasion of the city. 

As of now, the evacuation order only applied to some of the eastern neighborhoods of Rafah. According to Israel, Hamas has six remaining battalions in the Gaza Strip, four of them in Rafah: Yabna (South), Shaboura (North), Tel Sultan (West) and East Rafah. 

These areas also include field hospitals and tent camps for displaced Palestinians, with the IDF saying that "there has been a surge of humanitarian aid going into Gaza" recently.


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