Ahead of possible offensive, Netanyahu orders plan for Rafah evacuation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday (February 9) that he had ordered Israeli forces to draw up a plan to evacuate people in Rafah ahead of Israel’s ground invasion that’s widely anticipated. Rafah is a southern town in the Gaza Strip. Israel has been carrying out airstrikes on the now overpopulated town and did so on Friday as well

Friday’s attack came just hours after Biden administration warned Israel against expansion of its Gaza offensive to the southern city. More than half of Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million population now is in Rafah. The people have sought refuge in Rafah, escaping the war that so far rages in northern regions of the city.

US President Joe Biden on Thursday said that Israel’s response and conduct in the war after Hamas’ deadly October 7 attacks was ‘over the top’. This is the harshest criticism yet by Israel’s biggest international backer.

Watch | Israel-Hamas War: Israeli PM Netanyahu orders military to submit dual plan for Rafah

Meanwhile, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has said that Palestinian death toll in the war is approaching the 28,000 mark. It says that about two-thirds of the tally includes women and children.

Alpng with Biden, other US officials have reacted on Israel as well.

“We have yet to see any evidence of serious planning for such an operation,” Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, said on Thursday.

About Rafah offensvive, Patel said that going ahead with such operation “with no planning and little thought in an area where there is sheltering of a million people would be a disaster.”

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby has said that a ground operation in Rafah is  “not something we would support.”

Netanyahu has spoken of “total victory” in the war in spite of Israel’s increasing friction with the US.

(With inputs from agencies)

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