Israel begins ‘targeted’ strikes against Hamas in Rafah

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has begun conducting what it describes as ‘targeted strikes’ against Hamas operatives in eastern Rafah, a city located in the southern Gaza Strip where more than 1 million civilians from other parts of Gaza are sheltering. 

Per the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the War Cabinet has unanimously decided that Israel would continue exerting ‘military pressure’ on Hamas in Rafah to promote the release of hostages and the other goals of the war.

Israel announced earlier Monday it was ordering around 100,000 Palestinians to begin evacuating from Rafah, following a statement from Hamas that it had accepted an Egyptian-Qatari proposal for a cease-fire to halt the seven-month-long war with Israel in Gaza.

It still remains uncertain whether the deal has been sealed. 

The Prime Minister’s Office said while ‘the Hamas proposal is far from meeting Israel’s core demands, Israel will dispatch a ranking delegation to Egypt in an effort to maximize the possibility of reaching an agreement on terms acceptable to Israel.’

Israel’s actions signal that a long-promised ground invasion could be imminent. Israel has said that Rafah is Hamas’ last stronghold. 

The U.S. has said it opposes a Rafah invasion unless Israel provides a ‘credible’ plan for protecting civilians there. 

‘The Secretary-General reiterates his pressing call to both the government of Israel and the leadership of Hamas to go the extra mile needed to make an agreement come true and stop the present suffering,’ said Stéphane Dujarric de la Rivière, spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. 

‘The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the indications that a large-scale military operation in Rafah may be imminent. We are already seeing movements of people – many of these are in desperate humanitarian condition and have been repeatedly displaced. They search [for] safety that has been so many times denied,’ Dujarric said. ‘The Secretary-General reminds the parties that the protection of civilians is paramount in international humanitarian law.’

IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said aircraft struck more than 50 terrorist targets in Rafah amid the evacuation of residents in the area and the expansion of the humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi and Khan Yunis. 

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has urged the international community to do all it can to prevent a potential ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza as a result of Israel’s anticipated ground invasion of Rafah. 

‘His Majest King Abdullah II warns that the Israeli attack on #Rafah, where about 1.4 million Palestinians are internally displaced as a result of the #Gaza war, threatens to a new massacre,’ read a Monday afternoon post on X by Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court (RHC)

The war in Gaza has driven around 80% of the territory’s population of 2.3 million from their homes and caused vast destruction throughout several cities. The death toll in Gaza has soared to more than 34,500 people, per estimates from Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. 

The war began Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250 others. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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