Saturday, April 20, 2024

Israel says to expand military operations in Rafah, 29k Palestinians killed

Israeli soldiers will expand military operations in Rafah if hostages held by Hamas are not returned from the Gaza Strip by the start of Ramadan, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz has stated. More than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza so far.

The Muslim holy month is expected to start on March 10 or 11 and Gantz’s comments appear to be the clearest deadline yet for Israeli military action in the southern Gaza city, where more than 1 million displaced Palestinians are taking shelter near the Egyptian border.

“The world must know, and Hamas leaders must know — if by Ramadan our hostages are not home — the fighting will continue to the Rafah area,” Gantz told a gathering of American Jewish organizations in Jerusalem.

“We will do so in a coordinated manner, facilitating the evacuation of civilians in dialogue with our American and Egyptian partners to minimize civilian casualties.”

Israel has announced it plans to expand its ground operations into Rafah, but there is growing concern that the roughly 1.5 million Palestinians sheltering there will have nowhere to go.

“To those saying the price is too high, I say this very clearly: Hamas has a choice — they can surrender, release the hostages, and the citizens of Gaza will be able to celebrate the holy holiday of Ramadan,” Gantz added.

Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip since an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. The ensuing Israeli attacks have killed nearly 29,000 and caused mass destruction and shortages of necessities, while less than 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

The Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85% of the territory’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

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