Israel Orders Partial Evacuation of Rafah, Fueling Fears of New Offensive

Israeli warplanes pounded targets in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Monday as the military told about 110,000 people sheltering there to evacuate. Many people began to leave, fearing that Israel was moving ahead with its long-planned invasion of Rafah, despite stiff international pressure.

The Israeli military began dropping leaflets in eastern Rafah telling people to move to what it called a humanitarian zone to the north, and said it would also notify people by text messages, phone calls and broadcasts in Arabic, and on Monday night, the Israeli military carried out another round of what it called “targeted strikes” in Rafah against Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement late on Monday that the war cabinet had decided unanimously to “continue with its action in Rafah in order to exert military pressure on Hamas,” though it was not clear if that meant the latest airstrikes or something broader. A military spokesman would not say when troops might enter the crowded city, but described the evacuation as part of Israel’s plans to dismantle Hamas and to free hostages taken on Oct. 7.

Hours after the evacuation order, the political leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, issued a statement that the group had accepted a new cease-fire proposal from Qatar and Egypt, which have acted as intermediaries in peace talks. The group and Israeli officials said it was not referring to the proposal that Israel recently agreed to, leaving the conflict unresolved.

Smoke billows after Israeli bombardment in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip today amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

John F. Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, declined to comment on the Hamas response, saying the United States was reviewing it. Israeli officials said they, too, would review the proposal, but the prime minister’s office said it did not meet Israel’s demands.

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