Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared his troops to draft an evacuation plan for civilians in the city of Rafah, a major refugee camp called the last safe zone in Gaza.
Netanyahu said troops must fight against Palestinian militant group Hamas in the southern Gaza refugee camp, where the United Nations has warned more than 600,000 children are sheltering.
“It is impossible to achieve the goal of the war without eliminating Hamas,” Netanyahu said, accusing the militant group of hiding battalions in Rafah.
Humanitarian groups warn that fleeing civilians have nowhere else to go and that Rafah is a major hub for humanitarian aid from Egypt that will be endangered by Israel moving in.
Avril Benoît, executive director of Doctors Without Borders USA, said the “needs are overwhelming” in Rafah.
“Israel’s declared ground offensive on Rafah would be catastrophic and must not proceed,” Benoît said.
The Israeli push into Rafah also threatens to increase tensions between Israel and the U.S., which is trying to get Israel to reduce civilian casualties after the deaths of more than 27,000 people in Gaza.
President Biden offered his most critical remarks yet when he said Thursday night that Israel’s offensive in Gaza is “over the top.”
State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said the U.S. would not support a push into Rafah.
To “conduct such an operation right now with no planning and little thought in an area where there is sheltering of a million people would be a disaster,” he told reporters.
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