Netanyahu Orders Evacuation Plan for Rafah Amid Rising International Criticism

By Yoni Weiss

A firefighter extinguishes a burning car hit by an Israeli strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Feb. 10. (REUTERS/Bassam Masoud)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has directed the IDF to formulate a plan for the evacuation of Rafah’s population in anticipation of an imminent Israeli invasion of the southern Gaza town.

The decision follows international criticism of Israel’s intent to enter the densely populated area near the Egyptian border, deemed the last remaining stronghold of Hamas. Netanyahu stressed the necessity of a “massive operation” in Rafah and instructed the IDF and the security establishment to present a comprehensive plan addressing both the evacuation of civilians and the dismantling of Hamas battalions in the region.

This move comes amid heightened tensions and reported airstrikes on Rafah, where an estimated 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge after fleeing conflict elsewhere in Gaza. The international community, including the Biden administration, has expressed concern over Israel’s conduct in the ongoing conflict, particularly in densely populated areas.

President Joe Biden on Thursday labeled Israel’s actions as “over the top,” signaling a rare and strong rebuke of the close ally. The U.S. has voiced opposition to expanding the ground offensive to Rafah, citing the lack of serious planning and the potential humanitarian disaster in an area providing shelter for a significant population.

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