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asiaone - 23 days ago

Palestinians brace for Rafah evacuation, Israeli assault plan

DOHA/JERUSALEM - Trapped in and around Rafah amid fears of a bloodbath, more than one million terrified Palestinians waited for Israel to complete a plan to evacuate them and launch an assault against Hamas fighters in the southern Gaza city. Aid agencies warned that large numbers of civilians could die in the Israeli offensive and the UN Palestinian refugee agency said it did not know how long it could work in such a high risk operation. There is a sense of growing anxiety, growing panic in Rafah, said Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UNRWA agency. People have no idea where to go. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu s office on Friday (Feb 9) announced that the military was ordered to develop a plan for evacuating the population and destroying four Hamas battalions that it said were deployed in Rafah. Israel cannot achieve its goal of eliminating the Islamist militants who rule Gaza while those units remain, it said. The statement, issued two days after Netanyahu rejected a Hamas ceasefire proposal that included the release of hostages held by the Palestinian militants, gave no further details.


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