Israel-Gaza war live: IDF orders evacuation of central Rafah as it prepares to expand offensive | Gaza

Israeli military orders evacuation of central Rafah

Jason Burke

Jason Burke

The Israeli military has told residents of neighbourhoods in central Rafah to evacuate, signalling a major expansion of its military operations in the city and threatening the displacement of hundreds of thousands more people.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) seized the Rafah border crossing with Egypt what it said was a “precise, targeted operation” last week after ordering the evacuation of eastern neighbourhoods.

More than 150,000 people have already fled the city. Many have fled to an “expanded humanitarian zone”, designated by the IDF on the coast and to the northwest where conditions are “horrific”, according to aid workers there.

The new instructions to residents suggest a coming offensive will take the IDF into the centre of Rafah, threatening destruction and displacement of many more, and a likely advance through the entire city.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has rejected US pressure to hold off an attack on Rafah, saying that Hamas has based most of its top leaders and remaining forces there.

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Key events

Protesters are gathering in Tel Aviv to protest against the Israeli government and call for early elections as well as the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Police have barricaded off parts of Begin Street and Kaplan Street to contain the demonstration, as well as nearby exits to the Ayalon Freeway to prevent protesters from blocking traffic, the Times of Israel is reporting.

Left-wing activists march during an anti-government demonstration in Tel Aviv on 11 May 2024. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
A person holds a placard depicting Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and reading “because of you we are dead” during a protest calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, and for the government to step down, near the Kirya in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA
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Smoke rose over Rafah as the Israeli military told people living in central Rafah to evacuate, signalling a major expansion of its military operations in the city and threatening the displacement of hundreds of thousands more people.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) seized the Rafah border crossing with Egypt last week in what it said was a “precise, targeted operation” after ordering the evacuation of eastern neighbourhoods. More than 150,000 people have already fled the southern city in Gaza.

The new instructions to residents, via leaflets and messages on social media, suggest a coming offensive will take the IDF into the centre of Rafah and on to a likely advance through the entire city.

Here’s our video report:

Palestinians warn ‘no space’ in camps as Israel orders people in Rafah to evacuate – video

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People in Rafah ‘exhausted, degraded, humiliated’ after days of ‘relentless’ bombardment, says Unrwa official

Palestinians in Rafah fear the intensification of an already desperate situation in Gaza’s southernmost city, an official from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees has said.

Unrwa’s Sam Rose, speaking to CNN, said the population of Rafah is “exhausted, degraded, humiliated” after days of “relentless” bombardment and amid warnings of an imminent Israeli military operation.

“The population is exhausted, degraded and humiliated”@UNRWA‘s Sam Rose describes to @CNN the already desperate situation in #Rafah, as people have suffered relentless artillery strikes, air strikes, tank shells over the past 4 or 5 days ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/P6gOLK8LZV

— UNRWA (@UNRWA) May 11, 2024

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A series of warning sirens have sounded in multiple towns in northern Israel in the last hour, Israel media is reporting.

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Egypt has refused to coordinate with Israel on the entry of aid into Gaza from the Rafah crossing, citing Israel’s “unacceptable escalation”, Egyptian media is reporting.

A senior official added that Egypt held Israel responsible for the deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip, according to Reuters. Red Crescent sources in Egypt said shipments had completely halted.

Israeli military forces on Tuesday seized control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

The UN and international aid agencies warned that the closing of Rafah and the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing had essentially cut off the Palestinian territory from outside aid.

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There had been no panic, humanitarian officials in Rafah said, just huge numbers of people packing whatever they had in preparation for yet another move. Many have been displaced many times as they have fled successive Israeli military offensives across Gaza.

A million people who sought shelter in Rafah, after fleeing fighting or after their homes had been destroyed, turned the small city of 300,000 into a sprawling, overcrowded encampment. One aid official said:

There are a lot of people on the move today and continued bombardments … It’s all orderly, with people tidying up after themselves.

Marwan al-Hams, the head of the health emergency committee of Rafah, said on Friday morning that nine people had been killed and 10 injured in the preceding 24 hours.

Also on the road was Adeeb al-Saka, 37, a lecturer at Gaza University, with her four children. Her destination was al-Qarara, just north of Khan Younis, an area that is within the recently expanded “humanitarian zone” designated by the IDF. Saka said:

Our neighbourhood is under heavy bombardment. I’m going to al-Qarara because there is no space anywhere else. I have heard there is no water, no electricity and no internet where we are going, but there we have no other options.

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Number of Palestinians fleeing Rafah rises above 150,000 amid Israeli strikes

Under a blazing summer sun, tens of thousands of Palestinians fled Israeli bombardment and clashes with Hamas militants in Rafah on Friday, choking roads with donkey carts, bicycles, pickup trucks and wheelchairs.

More than 150,000 people have now left Gaza’s southernmost city since receiving warnings on Monday from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of an imminent military operation, with most having moved after airstrikes and fighting intensified later in the week.

Among those fleeing on Friday was Iyad Jarboa, an acting instructor and theatre director who left his home in eastern Rafah on Thursday with his family to seek safety in the city of Khan Younis, six miles away. Jarboa, 45, said:

We have been suffering since the beginning of the war, but these last nights were the most difficult of all, with bombing of all kinds everywhere and none of us able to sleep. I was worried that my children and my wife would be killed, but also that if we left it too late, we would never escape.

People travel on a cart in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, on Friday. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Jarboa’s brother, sister-in-law and aunt have all sustained serious injuries during the conflict. He said:

We only have two wheelchairs, so I have to carry one of them on my back and so it would be impossible to move at all if the situation worsened.

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The families of hostages held in Gaza have said they will hold an emergency news conference from Tel Aviv this evening.

Several families are expected to make statements to the media, following the announcement by Hamas that British-Israeli hostage Nadav Popplewell has died.

A series of demonstrations are expected to take place in Israel’s major cities today to demand the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and early elections.

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Hostage families urge ceasefire deal amid nationwide protests

Lorenzo Tondo

Lorenzo Tondo

In a statement released by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum headquarters, the family of British-Israeli hostage Nadav Popplewell, 51, confirmed dead by Hamas, requested that the clip of him not be published or used. The forum stated:

Every sign of life received from the hostages held by Hamas is another cry of distress to the Israeli government and its leaders. We don’t have a moment to spare! You must strive to implement a deal that will bring them all back today – the living to rehabilitation and the murdered to burial.

On 27 April, a video was released by the group showcasing the ongoing survival of hostages Keith Siegel and Omri Miran Three days prior, a separate video was broadcast featuring the hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin.

The unprecedented abduction of approximately 250 people into the Gaza Strip occurred on 7 October during an assault by Hamas militants on southern Israel. According to Israeli authorities, 128 people are reported to remain in captivity within the Palestinian territory, with 36 confirmed dead.

The video was released on the day a series of demonstrations are expected to take place across the country, with families of hostages protesting for the government to reach an agreement for the release of their loved ones.

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More on the reports of the British-Israeli hostage’s death

Reuters reports:

The Israeli military did not offer immediate comment on the latest video. It has referred to previous videos of hostages released by Hamas as psychological terror. It has also denied some of the previous accusations by Hamas that hostages were killed by Israeli fire.

Earlier on Saturday Hamas released an undated video of the 51-year-old captive in front of a white wall, with a bruise on his right eye, and speaking his name.

Hours later, in the second video, it said Popplewell died of wounds sustained a month ago in an Israeli air strike.

Hamas said Popplewell, whom it said was also a British citizen, was being detained with a woman hostage when the place they were being held was targeted by an Israeli missile.

“He died because he didn’t receive intensive medical care at medical facilities because of the enemy’s destruction of hospitals in Gaza,” the Hamas armed wing spokesman, Abu Ubaida, said in a statement.

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Pro-Palestinian protesters opposing Israel’s participation in the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) demonstrate in Malmo, Sweden, on May 11, 2024. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images
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