Desperate Palestinians fear coming Israeli assault in Rafah

Published February 12, 2024
Displaced members of Abu Mustafa’s family prepare food as they shelter at the border with Egypt 
in Rafah.—Reuters
Displaced members of Abu Mustafa’s family prepare food as they shelter at the border with Egypt in Rafah.—Reuters

RAFAH: The Abu Mustafa family’s tent is hard against the high concrete and metal fence separating Gaza from Egypt in Rafah, the last relatively safe place in an enclave devastated by Israel’s military offensive, but one that may now also come under attack.

The family is among more than a million Palestinians now crammed into the area around Rafah and fearing they have nowhere left to flee inside a tiny strip largely reduced to rubble and where fighting still rages.

“Every day, we’re on the run. Being displaced is tough because I have two daughters with disabilities. I cant carry them around. I don’t have a car or a cart,” said Laila Abu Mustafa. “If there will be more displacement, I’m not moving,” she said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered an evacuation plan for the civilians who crowd Rafah, camping in streets and empty lots, on the beach and like the Abu Mustafa family on the sandy strip along the Egyptian border.

Aid agencies say attack would cause untold misery

Before previous assaults on Gaza cities, Israel’s military has ordered civilians to leave without preparing any specific evacuation plan. Aid agencies say an assault on Rafah would be catastrophic in a war that has already caused untold misery.Against the border fence, topped with barbed wire, the Abu Mustafa family hangs laundry between tents. They cook what little food they can gather in empty tin cans over a fire in the sand.

Fear of an assault on Rafah is the constant subject of every conversation in the crammed city, said Mariam, a woman who fled her home in Gaza City early in the war with her three children aged 5, 7 and 9.

“I can’t describe how we feel. There is turmoil in my head. My children keep asking me when Israel will invade Rafah and where we will go and if we will die. And I don’t have the answers,” she said.Gaza is in ruins. Under a massive daily bombardment, Israeli ground forces have overrun most of the enclave, smashing houses, public buildings and infrastructure with air raids, artillery fire and controlled detonations.Talks for a deal on a ceasefire and the release of prisoners have so far failed to bring an agreement. Last week Israel rejected a Hamas proposal, saying it would not stop fighting while the group retained brigades that Israel says are hiding in Rafah.

Egyptian security sources said more high-level talks were planned for Tuesday with senior officials from Qatar and the United States to attend, as well as Israeli and Palestinian delegations.

Israeli air raids have started targeting Rafah over recent days.

A spokesperson for France’s Foreign Ministry said “a large-scale Israeli offensive at Rafah would create a catastrophic humanitarian situation of a new and unjustifiable dimension”.

Netanyahu cast doubt on the accuracy of the Palestinian death toll, describing the figures produced by health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza as “Hamas statistics”.

“It’s only been one civilian that’s been killed for one Hamas terrorist in Gaza,” he said.

He said “we’ve killed or wounded around 20,000 Hamas terrorists, out of that 12,000 fighters” without explaining further.

Palestinian health authorities say around 70 per cent of people killed in Gaza are women or children under 18. The Israeli military said in a briefing in December that they thought roughly two civilians had been killed in Gaza for each dead Hamas combatant.

The World Health Organisation has described the Palestinian Health Ministry system for reporting casualties as “very good” and UN agencies regularly cite its death toll figures.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

What next for PTI?
Updated 23 Feb, 2024

What next for PTI?

THE incoming government has been carved up. With the major offices apportioned between the PML-N and PPP, the...
Tackling debt
23 Feb, 2024

Tackling debt

MANY would tend to describe a new report warning that the country is headed for “inevitable default”, which will...
Imprisoned abroad
23 Feb, 2024

Imprisoned abroad

THE issue of Pakistani prisoners imprisoned in foreign jails crops up regularly, particularly during parliamentary...
On a leash
Updated 22 Feb, 2024

On a leash

Shehbaz will not find it easy to introduce the much-needed major changes to the economy without running into resistance.
Shameful veto
22 Feb, 2024

Shameful veto

THE US has scored a hat-trick by vetoing, for the third time, a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an...
Truth under threat
22 Feb, 2024

Truth under threat

AS WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange mounts a last-ditch effort against being extradited from the UK to the US, one...