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Israel going ahead with Rafah operation as hostage talks continue, Netanyahu says

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that his war cabinet approved continuing an operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in order to pressure Hamas to release Israeli hostages and achieve the country's other war goals.

Texts, telephone calls and flyers urge Palestinians in Rafah to move to 'expanded humanitarian zone'

Israel launches airstrikes in Rafah as Hamas accepts mediated ceasefire deal

5 hours ago

Duration 2:53

Israel has launched new airstrikes in Rafah, warning 100,000 people there to flee to a designated safe area ahead of an expected ground operation. The strikes came after Hamas agreed to a mediated ceasefire proposal but Israel did not.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that his war cabinet approved continuing an operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in order to pressure Hamas to release Israeli hostages and achieve the country's other war goals.

"The war cabinet unanimously decided that Israel continue the operation in Rafah to exert military pressure on Hamas in order to advance the release of our hostages and the other goals of the war," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

"In parallel, even though the Hamas proposal is far from Israel's necessary demands, Israel will send a working delegation to the mediators in order to exhaust the possibility of reaching an agreement under conditions acceptable to Israel," it said.

Netanyahu's remarks came after Hamas said it had accepted a ceasefire proposal from mediators. The Israeli military said all proposals that would release hostages held in Gaza would be considered, while for now its operations were continuing in parallel.

Earlier on Monday, Israel ordered the evacuation of parts of Rafah, the city on the Egyptian border that has served as the last sanctuary for around half of Gaza's 2.3 million residents.

WATCH | Palestinians left scrambling in Rafah:

'I don't know where I will go'

16 hours ago

Duration 0:29

Families in parts of Rafah are on the move, with few resources and little sense of where they will go, after being urged by Israel to relocate.

An Israeli strike on a house in Rafah killed five Palestinians, including a woman and a girl, medics said.

Israel believes that a significant number of Hamas fighters, along with potentially dozens of hostages, are in Rafah and has said that victory requires taking the key city.

Israel's closest ally, the United States, has called on it not to assault Rafah, saying it must not do so without a full plan in place to protect civilians there, which has yet to be presented.

A separate U.S. official said that Washington is concerned about Israel's latest strikes against Rafah but does not believe they represent a major military operation.

Israel said on Monday it was conducting limited operations on the eastern part of Rafah. Palestinian residents said there were massive air strikes.

"They have been firing since last night, and today after the evacuation orders, the bombardment became more intense because they want to frighten us to leave," Jaber Abu Nazly, a 40-year-old father of two, told Reuters via a chat app.

"Others are wondering whether there is any place safe in the whole of Gaza," he said.

A child and an adult whose face isn't shown together hold up a piece of paper that has Arabic writing on it.

Instructed by Arabic text messages, phone calls and flyers to move to what the Israeli military called an "expanded humanitarian zone" about 20 kilometres away, some Palestinian families began trundling away in chilly spring rain.

Some piled children and possessions onto donkey carts, while others left by pickup truck or on foot through muddy streets.

Abdullah Al-Najar said this was the fourth time he had been displaced since the fighting began seven months ago.

"God knows where we will go now. We have not decided yet," he said.

Dr. Nick Maynard, a British surgeon trying to leave Gaza on Monday, said in a voice message from the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing into Egypt: "Two huge bombs have just gone off immediately outside the crossing. There's a lot of gunfire as well about 100 metres from us. We are very unclear whether we will get out.

"Driving through Rafah, the tension was palpable with people evacuating as rapidly as they could."

A senior official of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that governs Gaza, told Reuters the evacuation order was a "dangerous escalation that will have consequences."

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Israel's military said it had begun encouraging residents of Rafah to evacuate in a "limited scope" operation.

Lt.-Col. Nadav Shoshani, an Israeli army spokesperson, said some 100,000 people were being ordered to move to Al Muwassi, a makeshift camp of tents along the coast where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled in search of safety and live in squalid conditions. Shoshani would not say whether this was the beginning of a broader invasion of the city.

'Devastating' consequences: aid agency

Witnesses said the areas in and around Rafah where Israel wants people to go is already crowded and there is almost no room for more tents to be added.

An Israeli offensive in Rafah "would be devastating for 1.4 million people" sheltering there, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said on X, formerly Twitter.

A small child peers out of a tent covered with hanging clothers in a makeshift camp.

Seven months into its war against Hamas, Israel has been threatening to launch incursions in Rafah. Victory is impossible without taking the city, Israel says.

The prospect of a high-casualty operation worries Western powers and neighbouring Egypt, which is trying to mediate a new round of truce talks between Israel and Hamas under which the Palestinian Islamist group might free some hostages.

The Rafah plan has opened an unusually public rift between Israel and Washington. Speaking to his U.S counterpart, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant linked Monday's operation to the deadlock in indirect diplomacy, which he blamed on Hamas.

"During their discussion, Gallant discussed the efforts undertaken to achieve the release of hostages and indicated that at this stage, Hamas refuses the frameworks at hand," the Israeli Defence Ministry said in a statement.

"Gallant emphasized that military action is required, including in the area of Rafah, at the lack of an alternative."

Deadly exchange near border crossing

An Israeli broadcaster, Army Radio, said evacuations were focused on a few peripheral districts of Rafah, from which evacuees would be directed to tent cities in nearby Khan Younis and Al Muwassi.

Many residents in Rafah said they had received telephone calls to evacuate their homes in the targeted area, in line with the army announcement.

In an overnight aerial attack on Rafah, Israeli planes hit 10 houses, killing 20 people and wounding several, medical officials said.

A woman wearing a head covering and several children are shown near a large damaged concrete structure, with stone debris scattered on the ground below.

Four Israeli soldiers were killed on Sunday in a Hamas rocket attack near Rafah, at the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza, while Palestinian health officials said at least 19 people were killed by Israeli fire.

The war began after Hamas led a cross-border raid in Israel on Oct. 7 in which about 1,200 people were killed, including several Canadian citizens, and about 250 were taken hostage.

More than 34,735 Palestinians have been killed and more than 77,000 have been wounded in Israel's assault since early October, according to Gaza's Health Ministry. The tally does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, but officials say at least two-thirds of the dead are children and women.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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