Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. (file photo)
After rejecting Hamas’ ceasefire proposal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered troops to be ready for Rafah. The US on Thursday warned Israel that it risks disaster if it sends troops to Rafah, the southernmost city of Gaza, where more than 1 million Palestinians have sought refuge.
The warning came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered troops to be ready for operations in Rafah. Israeli ground troops have not yet entered the last major city of the Gaza Strip.
Fear of ground war
Israel’s armed forces stepped up their airstrikes on the city on Thursday as fears of a ground battle grew among thousands of civilians displaced from other parts of Gaza who are now sheltering in tents and bombed-out buildings. UN chief Antonio Guterres warned that there would be a rapid increase in military offensive in Rafah.
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Fighting continues despite international efforts
Heavy fighting has continued despite international efforts for a ceasefire in the bloodiest Gaza war ever, which began after Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel. State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said Washington has not yet found any evidence of serious planning for the Rafah ground operation.
Noting that Rafah is also an important entry point for humanitarian aid to Gaza, Patel said that is not something we will support. Carrying out such an operation now without any planning and little thinking would be a disaster. Patel said Secretary of State Antony Blinken conveyed Washington’s concerns directly to Netanyahu during their talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Publicly, the top US diplomat warned that any military operation by Israel would have to involve civilians first. Blinken left Israel without a pause in the fighting, ending his fifth fraught tour of the Middle East since the war began.
At least seven air strikes overnight
AFP journalists reported that Israel launched at least seven airstrikes overnight in the Rafah area. Resident Umm Hassan, 48, said the attacks were proof that there is no security in Rafah. Attacks and ground fighting continued in the Hamas-ruled area, where the health ministry said another 130 people were killed in 24 hours, into the fifth month of the war.
Blinken’s fifth tour ends
Blinken concluded his fifth visit to the region, where US forces have become involved in conflicts ranging from Iraq to Yemen. On ceasefire talks, Blinken insisted he still saw room for an agreement to stop the fighting and bring the hostages home. An Egyptian official said it was ready to host new talks with Qatari and Hamas negotiators in the hope of achieving peace in Gaza and the release of hostages.
Hamas ready for discussion
The Israeli Prime Minister had rejected the strange demands of Hamas during the talks. Blinken said that Hamas’s counter-proposal at least provided an opportunity to move the talks forward. He said that we will work continuously. A Gaza-based Palestinian official close to the militant group later told AFP that we expect the talks to be very complex and difficult. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Hamas is ready for discussion and also wants a ceasefire.
More than 27 thousand people died
According to statistics, about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. Israel then vowed to eliminate Hamas and launched airstrikes and ground attacks that killed at least 27,840 people, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The militants also captured about 250 hostages. Israel says there are 132 people left in Gaza, of whom 29 have died. At the same time, months of bombardment and siege, especially in southern Gaza, have deepened the humanitarian crisis.