Israel’s advance into Rafah forces hundreds of thousands to flee once more

Tel Aviv — The exodus from Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip, has reached staggering levels, with nearly 360,000 people fleeing their homes as reported by the United Nations. This mass displacement has tripled in size within a matter of days. The Israel Defense Forces initiated this upheaval by issuing evacuation orders through text messages and distributing flyers from the sky to residents in the eastern half of the city.

IDF forces have been conducting limited and precise attacks in the southern part of the Palestinian territory, specifically targeting Hamas militants and infrastructure.

The United States has consistently cautioned Israel against initiating a large-scale military ground operation in Rafah due to concerns over widespread casualties. Alongside other nations, the White House has ramped up pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration to devise a strategy to address the humanitarian crisis resulting from the conflict. Additionally, there is a need to plan for the aftermath and determine the future governance of Gaza in the absence of Hamas.

Pressure mounts on Netanyahu

The Biden administration reiterated its caution over the weekend, emphasizing the need for Israel to have an exit plan for the war. They highlighted that defeating Hamas alone is not sufficient, as without a viable alternative to govern Gaza, there is a possibility of the terrorist organization staging a comeback.

In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern about the potential consequences of a power vacuum in the region. He cautioned that without a credible plan to protect civilians, a military operation in Rafah could lead to chaos, anarchy, and a resurgence of Hamas. Blinken emphasized that the United States would not support such an operation.

Israel’s government and its military are currently experiencing visible divisions. Senior military officials are now openly pressuring Netanyahu to make a decision regarding the replacement of Hamas in governing Gaza. They are warning that if this matter is not resolved, Israeli forces may become trapped in the region.

Over the weekend, 600 family members of current IDF soldiers signed a letter urging Netanyahu’s government to reconsider a ground assault in Rafah. They expressed deep concern, emphasizing that such an operation could potentially become a death trap.

The families, in their letter, expressed their understanding that there are individuals actively working to sabotage the forces in Rafah, given the repeated announcements and warnings about entering the area.

The Biden administration has firmly stated that it will not provide weapons for what it views as an unwise full-scale military operation in Rafah. However, Netanyahu remains adamant in his commitment to carry out the assault, citing the presence of multiple Hamas battalions within the city.

During a late-night phone conversation, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant provided U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with a comprehensive update on the ongoing conflict, specifically highlighting the targeted military operation in the Rafah area against the remaining Hamas battalions. A statement from Gallant’s office confirmed this exchange of information.

Gazans forced to flee again and again

The neighborhoods in the southeast corner of Rafah were eerily quiet on Monday morning, with shattered buildings standing as a haunting reminder of the warnings issued by Israel about an imminent advance.

Hundreds of thousands of individuals who had previously been instructed by Israel to evacuate to the city have once again been forced to flee. This time, they have sought refuge in the western region of Gaza, specifically in the coastal area of al-Mawasi. In an effort to accommodate the displaced population, Israel has transformed this area into a vast camp.

Thousands of families are currently exposed to the elements, taking refuge in tents pitched along a barren stretch of coastline. Although they may be out of harm’s way for the time being, their safety is far from guaranteed.

Displaced mom who lost 6 of her 7 children “still in shock”

“My heart aches as I hear the desperate plea of a grieving mother, who shares the devastating news that her 8-year-old son remains trapped beneath the debris. She anxiously awaits the arrival of a cease-fire, desperately hoping to retrieve him from the ruins.”

“I am still in shock,” the now-single mother expressed, stating that she currently has no plans for the future.

Being a mother, my main priority is to be a pillar of strength for my daughter, Dema. It is crucial for me to take care of her and lay the foundation for her future. I prefer to keep her by my side at all times and I am hesitant to let her venture out on her own. In fact, she even sleeps beside me every night.

“I’m tired of this war dragging on,” Dema confided in CBS News.

On Memorial Day, Israel paid tribute to its fallen soldiers and the victims of Hamas’ terrorist attack on October 7th, which triggered the ongoing war. This somber occasion united many Israelis in their shared desire for peace and remembrance.

During a memorial service, Netanyahu made unequivocal remarks as dozens of families continue to urge him to agree to a deal that would bring home the approximately 100 Israelis who are still believed to be held hostage by Hamas or other groups in Gaza.

“We will persist until we achieve victory,” he declared, pledging to fulfill his stated objective of “eradicating Hamas.”

Abu Jebara expressed her deep regret at not being able to shield her six children from the relentless onslaught of Israel’s attacks during their time at the camp in Deir al Balah.

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MBS Staff
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