Thousands of Gazans leaving eastern Rafah as Israeli army pounds area after evacuation order - as it happened

Ahram Online , Monday 6 May 2024

The Israeli army said Monday it was evacuating about 100,000 people from eastern Rafah, ahead of an expected ground assault in the southern Gaza city.

Displaced Palestinians who left with their belongings from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip following an evacuation order by the Israeli army, arrive to Khan Yunis on May 6, 2024. AFP


18:50 The Palestinian Red Crescent told AFP on Monday that "thousands" of Gazans were leaving eastern Rafah amid bombing and after Israeli forces had ordered the southern Gaza area evacuated.

"The numbers of citizens moving from the eastern areas of Rafah towards the west are large, especially after the intensification of the bombing, there are thousands of citizens leaving their homes", said Red Crescent spokesman Osama al-Kahlout.

Gazan civil defence and aid officials said Israeli jets had struck areas of Rafah including Al-Shuka and Al-Salam, both of which had been told to evacuate.

17:55 A Hamas delegation is set to return to Cairo on Tuesday for truce talks mediated by Egypt, Qatar, and the US, reported Al-Qahera News.

Hamas negotiators had left Cairo on Sunday to consult with the group's leadership in Doha on the most recent truce proposals.

17:45 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday warned of the dangers of a possible Israeli military operation in the Palestinian Rafah area in the south of the Gaza Strip.

According to the foreign ministry, any such military operation would pose significant humanitarian risks and threaten more than a million Palestinians in that area.

Egypt called on Israel to exercise the utmost restraint and avoid further escalation at this sensitive time during ceasefire negotiations, and to stop the shedding of Palestinian civilian blood who have been facing an unprecedented humanitarian disaster since the start of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

The statement reaffirmed Egypt’s continued communication around the clock with all parties to prevent the situation from worsening or spiralling out of control.

17:30 Egypt dispatched firefighters from Egyptian Rafah to Palestinian Rafah to put out a fire that broke out at aid warehouses after they were bombed by Israel, according to Al-Qahera News.

17:00 US President Joe Biden will speak to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday about Israeli plans for a ground invasion in Gaza's southern border city Rafah, Bloomberg reported citing US and Israeli officials.

Biden is also set to meet later Monday with King Abdullah II of Jordan to discuss the Gaza war after ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas -- mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the US -- stalled over the weekend.

16:15 Germany on Monday called on all parties to continue with negotiations towards a truce in Gaza shortly after Israel issued evacuation orders to Palestinians in eastern Rafah.

"The negotiations must not be jeopardised and all sides must make maximum efforts to ensure that the people in Gaza are supplied with humanitarian goods... and that the hostages are freed," a foreign ministry spokeswoman told a government press briefing.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Monday said Germany has been doing "everything we can for months to finally alleviate the immeasurable suffering of the people in Gaza."

16:00 France said on Monday it was "strongly opposed" to Israel's Rafah offensive, ahead of an expected ground assault in the southern city of the Gaza Strip.

"France reiterates that it is strongly opposed to an Israeli offensive on Rafah, where more than 1.3 million people are taking refuge in a situation of great distress," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The forced displacement of a civilian population constitutes a war crime."

Earlier in the day, the Israeli army said it ordered the evacuation of 100,000 people from eastern Rafah, ahead of an expected ground assault in the southern city of Gaza.

About 1.2 million people are currently sheltering in Rafah, according to the World Health Organization, most having fled there from elsewhere in Gaza during the seven-month Israeli war on the strip.

Various world capitals and international organizations have warned that an assault on the densely populated city would have catastrophic consequences for a civilian population on the verge of starvation.

15:55 Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have killed 52 civilians in the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Al-Kuwait Hospital started receiving those wounded in fierce Israeli airstrikes in Rafah on Monday.



15:45 Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Monday warned that a “massacre of the Palestinians” would take place if Israel invades Rafah in southern Gaza, urging the international community to act now.

"Another massacre of the Palestinians is in the making. Israel is warning Palestinians to leave Rafah as it threatens an attack. All must act now to prevent it," he said in a post on social media platform X.

"Failure to prevent the massacre will be an indelible stain on the International Community. Too many massacres have been allowed. Enough."



15:30 There is ‘nowhere safe to go’ for the 600,000 children of Rafah, warned UNICEF in a statement on Monday.

"With hundreds of thousands of children in Rafah injured, sick, malnourished, traumatized or living with a disability, UNICEF calls for children to not be forcibly relocated, and the vital infrastructure on which children rely to be protected."

With the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip continuing to deteriorate, UNICEF is warning that a military besiegement and ground incursion in Rafah would pose catastrophic risks to the 600,000 children currently taking shelter in the enclave. 

Following October evacuation orders to move to the south, it is estimated that there are now about 1.2 million people sheltering in Rafah, once home to about 250,000 people. As a result, Rafah (20,000 people per km2) is almost twice as densely populated as New York City (11,300 people per km2), and about half the population is children, many of whom have been displaced multiple times and are sheltering in tents or informal and unstable housing.

Given the high concentration of children in Rafah – including many who are highly vulnerable and at the edge of survival – as well as the likely intensity of the violence, with potential evacuation corridors likely mined or littered with unexploded ordnance; and shelter and services in areas for relocation very likely to be limited – UNICEF is warning of a further catastrophe for children, with military operations resulting in very high civilian casualties and the few remaining basic services and infrastructure they need to survive being totally destroyed.

“More than 200 days of war have taken an unimaginable toll on the lives of children,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director. “Rafah is now a city of children, who have nowhere safe to go in Gaza. If large scale military operations start, not only will children be at risk from the violence, but also from chaos and panic, and at a time where their physical and mental states are already weakened.”

Read the full statement here



15:00 Josep Borrell, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, called on Israel to renounce its ground offensive on Rafah and implement UN resolutions.



14:30 The Israeli army has started bombing residential structures and public facilities in eastern Rafah, ahead of an imminent invasion of the city.

The heavy airstrikes come hours after the Israeli army ordered civilians to evacuate easter Rafah ahead of its long-planned ground invasion of the densely populated city where 1.2 million displaced sheltered.





14:00 The Israeli army said its operation to begin evacuating residents of eastern Rafah in the Palestinian territory of Gaza was "temporary and limited," the AFP reported.

"This morning ... we began a limited scope operation to evacuate residents in the eastern part of Rafah temporarily," an Israeli military spokesman told journalists in an online briefing. 

On Monday morning, the Israeli army called on civilians living in eastern Rafah to evacuate to an expanded humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi, between Khan Younis and the Mediterranean Sea. 

The calls were made through flyers, SMS text messages to cell phones, phone calls, and media broadcasts in Arabic. 

Flyers were dropped over Rafah on Monday morning with the following text (translated from Arabic): 

"The IDF is about to operate with force against the terror organizations in the area you currently reside, as the IDF has operated so far. Anyone in the area puts themselves and their family members in danger. For your safety, evacuate immediately to the expanded humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi.” 

This expanded humanitarian zone includes “field hospitals, tents and increased amounts of food, water, medication and additional supplies,” the Israeli army said. 

The Israeli army also said it is working with international organizations and partner countries to "increase the flow of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip."

13:30 Ahmed Al-Sufi, the mayor of Rafah, told Al Arabiya Al-Hadath: "There is no plan to evacuate the displaced in Rafah from any international entity."

"The so-called humanitarian area lacks services or infrastructure, and there are no signs of life. There is also no means of transporting these displaced persons to this area, which Israel designated as a humanitarian zone," added Al-Sufi.


Palestinians hold an evacuation order leaflet dropped by Israel's military in the east of the city of Rafah on May 6, 2024. AP


13:00 The Rafah Border Crossing between Egypt and Gaza remains open for the movement of aid and people as normal, an informed Egyptian source told Al-Qahera News.

The statement refutes earlier reports that Egypt closed the crossing following the Israeli army’s announcement that it would evacuate 100,000 Palestinians from east Rafah before beginning its ground operation.

The source said a rocket attack by Hamas’ armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, on an Israeli military base near the Karm Abu Salem crossing Sunday complicated truce talks in Cairo.

The Egyptian security delegation involved in the talks is intensifying its contacts to contain the current escalation between the two parties, added the source.

Egypt has opposed any Israeli ground military operation in Palestinian Rafah, warning of its dire consequences as the city hosts more than 1.5 million displaced Palestinians.  

12:45 For weeks, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has maintained that the Israeli army would carry out a ground offensive in Rafah "with or without a deal" with Hamas, regardless of US and international opposition to such a move.

Since 7 October, the Israeli war on Gaza has killed and wounded more than 115,000 Palestinians in the strip since 7 October - most of whom are women and children.

Israeli airstrikes have destroyed most hospitals and more than 50 percent of all homes in the strip, leaving most of the civilian population without shelter or medical care.

On Thursday, the UNDP said that if the war in Gaza stopped today, it would still take until 2040 to rebuild all the homes that have been destroyed in nearly seven months of Israel’s bombardment and ground offensives in the territory.


File photo: Palestinians find their home city unrecognizable in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, April 8, 2024. AP


In tandem, a brutal Israeli blockade on the entry of food and fuel to Gaza has left most of the population on the verge of starvation.

Israel has refused to agree to a permanent ceasefire, refusing to heed all regional and international calls to end its war on the strip while it faces a genocide case at the International Court of Justice.

At the start of the war, Israel ordered Palestinians in northern Gaza to seek shelter from its military activity against Hamas in Rafah in the south of the strip.


File Photo: Palestinians line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip. AP


12:45 Quds News Network reported that the area the Israeli army has ordered Palestinians to evacuate from in Rafah already houses nearly 250,000 people.

"They (the Israeli military) are calling people in the eastern area of Rafah, some also in the west near the Rafah crossing, ordering them to leave ... We don't know what to do, but I will take my family to Deir Al-Balah though I am not in the targeted area, maybe not yet," Gaza resident Abu Muhey, who is sheltering with his family north of Rafah, told Reuters.



12:30 The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said it would not evacuate Rafah after Israel issued an evacuation order for Rafah.

“An Israeli offensive in Rafah would mean more civilian suffering & deaths. The consequences would be devastating for 1.4 million people,” UNRWA said on X.

"@UNRWA is not evacuating: the Agency will maintain a presence in Rafah as long as possible & will continue providing lifesaving aid to people."



12:00 Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters on Monday that Israel's Rafah evacuation order ahead of an expected offensive is a "dangerous escalation that will have consequences."

"The US administration, alongside the occupation, bears responsibility for this terrorism," added Abu Zuhri.

Another Hamas official told Reuters that the Israeli decision to evacuate residents from Rafah would lead to a suspension of the negotiations to release captives.

11:00 The Israeli army said Monday it was evacuating about 100,000 people from eastern Rafah, ahead of an expected ground assault in the southern city of Gaza.

"The estimate is around 100,000 people," a military spokesman told journalists on Monday when asked how many people were being evacuated.

About 1.2 million people are currently sheltering in Rafah, according to the World Health Organization, most having fled there from elsewhere in Gaza during the seven-month Israeli war on the strip.

The evacuation "is part of our plans to dismantle Hamas ... we had a violent reminder of their presence and their operational abilities in Rafah yesterday," the military spokesman said.

"This is an evacuation plan to get people out of harm's way."

The Israeli threats to carry out a ground assault on Rafah have met widespread regional and international condemnation.

Various world capitals and international organizations have warned that an assault on the densely populated city would have catastrophic consequences for a civilian population on the verge of starvation.

Displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip pack their belongings following an evacuation order by the Israeli army on May 6, 2024. AFP

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