The Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, the last refuge for Palestinians displaced by the war in Gaza, is causing intense concern for Hamas. The Islamic extremist movement warned about the severe consequences of an Israeli invasion, stating that tens of thousands of people could be killed or injured in the city. Witnesses reported bombings in the surrounding areas of Rafah and the city is home to 1.3 million Palestinians, more than half of the total population of Gaza, and most of them are refugees who fled the Israeli offensive in other areas of the Strip.
The conflict began when Islamist militants killed more than 1,160 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped about 250 in southern Israel. In response, Israel vowed to “annihilate” Hamas and launched a relentless campaign of bombing and ground operations against Gaza. This resulted in the death of mainly women, children, and adolescents.
On diplomatic fronts, a “new cycle of negotiations” began in Cairo with aim to obtain greater access to humanitarian aid to Gaza and exchange hostages held by Hamas by Palestinian prisoners in Israel. However, tensions are also high in other countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen where Iranian-backed groups have launched attacks on behalf of Hamas prompting retaliation from Israel and its allies.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the military to draw up a plan for evacuation civilians from Rafah but US, EU and UN has warned against potential humanitarian catastrophe if they are forced to evacuate without safe place to go. The Hamas Health Ministry reported intense fighting at Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis and raid Al Amal hospital in Rafah by Israeli forces while Palestinian leaders appealed international community for help to avoid further escalation conflict.