1 mln Rafah refugees fear ground assault from Israel

The provided text describes the dire situation in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where intense bombardment has led to panic, despair, and a significant displacement of the population. More than 1 million Rafah people, approximately half of the territory’s population, have sought shelter, fearing an Israeli ground assault.

The night of bombardment in Rafah was described as the heaviest since residents fled to the city. The attacks resulted in a substantial number of casualties, with conflicting reports of at least 67 people confirmed dead by health authorities and up to 100 according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Rafah, now accommodating at least half of Gaza’s population, faces severe overcrowding, with people seeking refuge in houses, hospitals, makeshift shelters, tents, and even sleeping on the streets. The fear of an Israeli ground operation in Rafah has heightened, and there is concern about the lack of safe places for the population to go.

Israeli officials have openly discussed the possibility of a deeper southern advance, while at least 600,000 children in Rafah, according to Unicef, are among those fearing there is no safe haven left. Plans for a ground assault on Rafah were requested by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, prompting warnings from US President Joe Biden about the need for a credible and executable plan for the safety of those sheltering in Rafah.

The Palestinian foreign ministry has highlighted the catastrophic consequences of the strikes, emphasizing the death toll as evidence of the warnings. Concerns about providing safe passage for those in Rafah remain unanswered by the Israeli military.

As the situation worsens, some families displaced multiple times are attempting to flee north, facing challenges due to overcrowded areas and ongoing attacks. The Sinai Foundation for Human Rights reports reinforcement efforts by Egyptian forces along the Gaza-Egypt border, expressing concern that an Israeli push into Rafah could force Palestinians to flee into the Sinai. Egypt has reportedly threatened to suspend its participation in the 1978 peace treaty with Israel if the offensive proceeds, seeking Washington’s intervention to address the situation and restore coordination between Israel and Egypt.

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