Israel needs a plan to protect civilians in Rafah| Trending Viral hub


By NAJIB JOBAIN and SMY MAGDY

RAFAH, Gaza Strip – Israel should not carry out a military operation against Hamas in the densely populated Gaza border city of Rafah without a “credible and executable” plan to protect civilians, US President Joe Biden said on Sunday. Biden to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the White House. saying.

It was the president’s most forceful language yet about the possible operation. Biden, who last week called Israel’s military response in Gaza “overblown,” also sought “urgent and targeted” measures to strengthen humanitarian aid. Israeli television Channel 13 said the conversation lasted 45 minutes.

Discussion over the possibility of a ceasefire agreement took up much of the call, a senior U.S. administration official said, and after weeks of diplomacy, there is now “virtually” a “framework” for an agreement that could allow the release. of the remaining hostages held by Hamas in exchange for the cessation of fighting.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, acknowledged that “gaps still exist” but declined to provide details. The official said military pressure on Hamas in the southern city of Khan Younis in recent weeks helped bring the group closer to accepting a deal.

Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the call. Hamas’ Al-Aqsa television station earlier quoted an unnamed Hamas official as saying that any invasion of Rafah would “blow up” talks brokered by the United States, Egypt and Qatar.

Biden and Netanyahu spoke after two Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat said Egypt threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if troops are sent to Rafah, where Egypt fears fighting could push Palestinians to the Sinai Peninsula and force the closure of the main aid supply route to Gaza. .

The threat to suspend the Camp David Accords, a cornerstone of regional stability for nearly half a century, came after Netanyahu said sending troops to Rafah was necessary to win the four-month war against Hamas. He claimed that Hamas has four battalions there.

More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled to Rafah to escape fighting elsewhere, and are crowded into tent camps and shelters run by the UN. Egypt fears a massive influx of Palestinian refugees who may never be allowed to return.

Netanyahu told “Fox News Sunday” that there is “plenty of room north of Rafah for them to go” after Israel’s offensive in other parts of Gaza, and said Israel would direct evacuees with “flyers, cellphones and safe corridors.” and other things”. But the offensive has caused widespread destruction, with little capacity to accommodate people.

The standoff between Israel and Egypt, two close US allies, took shape when aid groups warned that an offensive on Rafah would worsen the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza. About 80% of residents have fled their homes and the UN says a quarter of the population faces famine.

A ground operation in Rafah could cut off one of the only routes for the delivery of food and medical supplies. Forty-four trucks with aid entered Gaza on Sunday, said Wael Abu Omar, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority of Cruces. Around 500 entered daily before the war.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief journalists about the delicate negotiations. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other countries have also warned of serious repercussions if Israel enters Rafah.

“An Israeli offensive against Rafah would lead to an unspeakable humanitarian catastrophe and serious tensions with Egypt,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote in X. Human Rights Watch said forced displacement is a war crime.

The White House, which has sent weapons to Israel and shielded it from international calls for a ceasefire, has warned that a ground operation in Rafah would be a “disaster” for civilians.

Israel and Egypt fought five wars before signing the U.S.-brokered Camp David Accords in the late 1970s. The agreement includes provisions governing the deployment of forces on both sides of the heavily fortified border.

Egyptian officials fear that if the border is breached, the military will not be able to stem a tide of people fleeing toward the Sinai Peninsula.

The United Nations says Rafah, normally home to fewer than 300,000 people, is now home to 1.4 million more and is “severely overcrowded.”

Inside Rafah, some displaced people packed their bags again. Rafat and Fedaa Abu Haloub, who fled Beit Lahia in the north early in the war, placed their belongings in a truck. “We don’t know where we can safely take him,” Fedaa said of his baby. “Every month we have to move.”

Om Mohammad Al-Ghemry, displaced from Nuseirat, said she hoped Egypt would not allow Israel to force Palestinians to flee to the Sinai “because we don’t want to leave.”

Israel has so far ordered much of Gaza’s population to flee south, with evacuation orders covering two-thirds of the territory.

Heavy fighting continues in central Gaza and Khan Younis. In Gaza City, remaining residents covered decomposing corpses in the streets or carried corpses to graves.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Sunday that the bodies of 112 people killed across the territory had been taken to hospitals in the past 24 hours. The death toll is 28,176 since the start of the war. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, but says most of the dead were women and children.

The war began with the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, when fighters killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped about 250. More than 100 hostages were freed in November during a ceasefire. a week in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners. Some of the remaining hostages have died.

Hamas has said it will not release more unless Israel ends its offensive and withdraws from Gaza. He has also demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including high-ranking fighters serving life sentences.

Netanyahu has dismissed both demands, saying Israel will continue fighting until “complete victory” and the return of all hostages.

Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.


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