The Israeli military is gearing up for a ground operation in Rafah, located in the densely populated southern region of the Gaza Strip, media reports said Friday. This move comes alongside plans to evacuate residents before the operation's commencement, according to various media outlets.
Following requests from Egypt and the U.S., the operation in Rafah will kick off after a "large-scale evacuation" of the city's residents. An agreement between Tel Aviv and Cairo concerning the Israeli military's activities in the border areas between Gaza and Egypt, specifically the Philadelphia Axis, has been reached, as per Israeli public broadcaster Kan.
Kan also reported that Israel has communicated its readiness for the Rafah operation to several countries within the region, including the U.S., highlighting the international dimension of the planned military action.
The Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper has confirmed that the Israeli army has officially approved the ground operation in Rafah, marking a critical phase in the Israeli military's strategy in the southern Gaza Strip.
Additionally, Israeli Channel 12 revealed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has notified U.S. Secretary of State Blinken of the potential commencement of ground operations in Rafah within the next two weeks, indicating a tight timeline for the unfolding military and humanitarian preparations.
In a move reflecting the seriousness of the situation, Netanyahu earlier on Friday directed the Israeli military to formulate a dual strategy aimed at evacuating Palestinian residents from Rafah, which is home to over 1 million people seeking refuge from conflict, and to target the remaining Hamas battalions in the area.
Since the start of the Israeli onslaught against Gaza on Oct. 7, Israel ordered residents in northern and central Gaza to evacuate toward the southern part of the enclave, leading to the current overcrowded conditions in the south, especially in Rafah.
Israel continues its onslaught on Gaza where at least 27,947 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, and 67,459 injured since Oct. 7, according to Palestinian health authorities.
Israel has pounded Gaza since a cross-border attack by Hamas, which Tel Aviv said killed nearly 1,200 people.
The Israeli offensive has left 85% of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine. In comparison, 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure was damaged or destroyed, according to the United Nations.