‘Like a ghost town now’: Palestinians flee for safety amid Israel’s threat of Rafah invasion

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(The Age, 9/5/2024)

Where do the USA and others expect the refuges to go – we know Israel just wants them dead but what about the so called major Governments – Mark

Gaza: As battles raged on the outskirts of Rafah on Wednesday with Israeli forces closing in, Palestinians were on the move again, abandoning neighbourhoods of the southern Gaza city and leaving them as ghost towns.

Hamas said its fighters were battling Israeli forces in the east and Islamic Jihad’s fighters attacked Israeli soldiers and military vehicles with heavy artillery near the airport. Israeli tank shells landed in the middle of Rafah wounding at least 25 people, medics said.

“The streets of the city echo with the cries of innocent lives lost, families torn apart, and homes reduced to rubble. We stand on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented proportions,” Rafah’s mayor Ahmed Al-Sofi said, appealing to the international community to intervene.

Israel has threatened a major assault on Rafah to defeat thousands of Hamas fighters it says are holed up there, but more than a million people are sheltering in the city, prompting warnings from the United Nations of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Israeli forces tasked with destroying the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, on Tuesday seized the main border crossing between Gaza and Egypt in Rafah, cutting off a vital route for aid into the enclave, where malnutrition is widespread.

Israel’s military said it was conducting a limited operation in Rafah to kill fighters and dismantle infrastructure used by Hamas, which runs Gaza. It told civilians to go to an “expanded humanitarian zone” some 20 km away.

Three residents of Rafah told Reuters by telephone that tens of thousands of people have fled the city, which was seen as the last refuge for Palestinians who have been displaced many times over as Israeli air strikes pulverised Gaza.

People in the Jneina, Al-Shawka, Al-Salam and other neighbourhoods were ordered by the Israeli army to leave in anticipation of an assault. Some 1.4 million people have been sheltering in Rafah, raising the prospect of major casualties.

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