Israel: People in Rafah Will Be Sent to 'Humanitarian Islands'

Military is planning offensive in town that holds 1.4M displaced Palestinians
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 13, 2024 7:05 PM CDT
Israel: People in Rafah Will Be Sent to 'Humanitarian Islands'
Palestinians line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.   (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

The Israeli military said Wednesday it plans to direct a significant portion of the 1.4 million displaced Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip's southernmost town of Rafah toward "humanitarian islands" in the center of the territory ahead of its planned offensive in the area. The fate of the people in Rafah has been a major area of concern of Israel's allies—including the United States—and humanitarian groups, worried an offensive in the region densely crowded with so many displaced people would be a catastrophe, the AP reports. Rafah is also Gaza's main entry point for desperately needed aid. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said a Rafah offensive is crucial to achieve Israel's stated aim of destroying Hamas following the militants' Oct. 7 attack.

Israel's chief military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said moving those in Rafah to the designated areas, which he said would be done in coordination with international actors, was a key part of the military's preparations for its anticipated invasion of Rafah, where Israel says Hamas maintains four battalions it wants to destroy. Rafah has swelled in size in the last months as Palestinians in Gaza have fled fighting in nearly every other corner of the territory. The town is covered in tents. "We need to make sure that 1.4 million people or at least a significant amount of the 1.4 million will move," Hagari told reporters.

Hagari said the "humanitarian islands" would provide temporary housing, food, water, and other necessities to evacuated Palestinians. He did not say when Rafah's evacuation would occur, nor when the Rafah offensive would begin, saying that Israel wanted the timing to be right operationally and to be coordinated with neighboring Egypt, which has said it does not want an influx of displaced Palestinians crossing its border. The US. has been firm with Israel over its concerns about Rafah, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that Washington had yet to receive from Israel its plans for civilians there. "We need to see a plan that will get civilians out of harm's way if there's a military operation in Rafah," he said. (The US is building a floating pier to help get aid to Gaza.)

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