Israel says moving ahead with Rafah operation in Gaza

AFP , Ahram Online , Wednesday 24 Apr 2024

Israel said Wednesday it is "moving ahead" with its planned operation to attack the southern Gaza city of Rafah, despite international outcry over fears for the 1.5 million Palestinians sheltering there.

Rubble from bombing in the southern Gaza city of Rafah
Rubble from bombing in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israel has repeatedly threatened to send in ground troops. AFP


"Israel is moving ahead with our operation to target Hamas in Rafah," the occupation government spokesman David Mencer told a press briefing.

"The four battalions which remain in Rafah cannot be shielded from Israel. They will be attacked."

He added that "two reserve brigades" had been mobilized "for defensive and tactical missions in Gaza" against the Palestinian Islamist movement.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he will press ahead with the threatened assault on Rafah, the last major population center in Gaza that Israeli ground troops have yet to enter.

A majority of Gaza's 2.4 million people have taken refuge in Rafah, many sheltering in makeshift encampments.

Countries including Israel's top ally the United States have warned Israel against sending troops into Rafah, fearing huge civilian casualties.

"A full-scale military invasion of Rafah would have an enormously harmful effect" on civilians trapped there and "would ultimately hurt Israel's security", US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said earlier this month.

Red Cross official Fabrizio Carboni said humanitarian groups did not know of reported plans to move Rafah's residents away from the city ahead of the assault.

"There is no condition for a military operation without devastating humanitarian consequences," he told AFP on Tuesday.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesperson for President Mahmoud Abbas, squarely placed the blame on the US administration for the recent Israeli threats and escalation in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

He particularly referred to the alarming reports concerning an imminent Israeli military offensive in Rafah, which could result in massacres, disasters, and the displacement of civilians, marking the beginning of a period of long-term conflict, WAFA news agency reported.

In a press statement late on Wednesday, Abu Rudeineh emphasized that "the US decisions to provide military and financial aid [to Israel], along with the use of veto in the UN Security Council, make America complicit in the war of genocide."

"Such a stance is hostile to the Palestinian people, the Arab nations, and all countries that stood with Palestine in the UN Security Council," the Palestinian presidential spokesman affirmed.

Abu Rudeineh pointed out that the massive protests sweeping through world capitals, including recent encampments at US universities calling for an end to the Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, serve as a call for Joe Biden's administration to review its positions.

Hamas wants a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, which Netanyahu refuses and deems "unacceptable."

Since Oct.7, Israel's brutal military campaign in the Gaza Strip has killed 34,262, most of them women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

* This story has been edited by Ahram Online.

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