Live updates: Israel-Hamas war rages, Gaza braces for potential Rafah offensive

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 28, 2023. Abir Sultan/Pool/AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the War Cabinet on Thursday that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation in Rafah must be complete by the start of Ramadan on March 10, an Israeli official told CNN on Saturday.

Netanyahu’s office said in a statement Friday that the Israeli prime minister had directed the military to plan for the “evacuation of the population” from Rafah.

Netanyahu also said on Thursday that the IDF would “soon go into Rafah, Hamas’s last bastion.”

More than 1.3 million people are believed to be in Rafah, the majority displaced from other parts of Gaza, according to the United Nations.

On Friday, Rafah residents and people who had been displaced from elsewhere in Gaza told CNN they were afraid and have nowhere else to go if Israel enters the city in the south of the Gaza strip close to the Egyptian border.

The United Nations is “extremely worried” about the fate of civilians in the city, UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said Friday, while UN Humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths warned: “There’s nowhere left to go in Gaza.”

He added: “Civilians must be protected and their essential needs, including shelter, food and health, must be met.” 

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