Troops operate against Hamas regrouping in Gaza City’s Zeitoun

IDF calls on Gazans to leave additional Rafah neighborhoods as it presses operation

300,000 have left southern Gaza city to ‘humanitarian zone,’ military assesses; IDF also gearing up for fresh operation in north Gaza’s Jabaliya, as Hamas renews presence there

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Palestinians sit on a cart as they move to safer areas in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 10, 2024. (AFP)
Palestinians sit on a cart as they move to safer areas in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 10, 2024. (AFP)

The Israeli military on Saturday morning began calling on Palestinians in additional neighborhoods of Rafah to evacuate the area, as it pressed on with an operation against the Hamas terror group in the city in the southern Gaza Strip.

Last week, the Israel Defense Forces issued an evacuation warning for the eastern outskirts of Rafah, before it pushed into the area.

The latest warning covered the Rafah and Shaboura camps and the neighborhoods of Geneina and Khirbat al-Adas, slightly deeper into the city.

Around a million Palestinians, who fled other parts of the enclave during the war, are sheltering in Rafah.

In the initial evacuation zone and other areas of Rafah, around 300,000 Palestinians have evacuated to a designated “humanitarian zone,” according to IDF assessments.

Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, published on Saturday morning a list of the new zones that needed to be evacuated.

Palestinians load their belongings on the back of a truck as they flee Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip to a safer location on May 11, 2023. (AFP)

The IDF also dropped flyers, sent text messages and made phone calls with the evacuation instructions.

The civilians were called on to move to the expanded humanitarian zone in the al-Mawasi and Khan Younis areas in southern Gaza.

Adraee also warned Palestinians against moving toward the Israeli border.

The move came after Israel’s security cabinet voted on Thursday night to approve a “measured” expansion of the IDF’s operation in Rafah.

This map issued by the IDF, May 11, 2024 shows zones in Rafah that are to be evacuated amid a military offensive in the area. (Israel Defense Forces)

The expansion was deemed as measured in what Israel hopes will not cross the line into what the United States sees as a “major operation.”

US President Joe Biden warned earlier this week that he would halt certain offensive weapons shipments to Israel if it entered into the population centers of Rafah, due to concerns over the one million-plus civilians sheltering there.

In a highly anticipated report to Congress, the Biden administration said Friday it found “credible and reliable” Israeli assurances that it will use US weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law, allowing for the further transfer of American arms amid Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

However, in the strongest such statement from Biden officials, the US State Department report also said it was “reasonable” to assess that Israel has used US-supplied weapons since Hamas’s October 7 attack in instances that were “inconsistent” with its international humanitarian law obligations, but that it does not have complete information to verify Israeli forces did so.

IDF soldiers standing atop a battle tank as part of the Givati Brigade operating in eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in a handout picture released on May 10, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces/AFP)

The IDF’s operation in Rafah has so far been limited to the eastern part of the city and the border crossing with Egypt.

The IDF says troops have located several tunnel shafts and killed dozens of gunmen so far.

On Friday, Hamas launched two barrages of rockets from Rafah and central Gaza at Beersheba, the first attack on the southern city in nearly six months. The attack lightly wounded a woman and caused damage to a public playground.

The military on Saturday said it was also preparing to launch a new operation in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, after identifying attempts by Hamas to regroup there.

This map issued by the IDF, May 11, 2024 shows zones in Jabaliya that are to be evacuated ahead of a military offensive in the area. (Israel Defense Forces)

A separate evacuation order was given for the Jabaliya area, where the IDF estimated between 100,000 and 150,000 Palestinians were.

Civilians were being told to move to shelters west of Gaza City.

“You are in a dangerous combat zone. Hamas is trying to rebuild its capabilities in the area, and therefore the IDF will work with great force against the terror organizations in the area in which you are located,” Adraee said in his announcement.

Palestinians walk through the destruction from the Israeli offensive in Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Feb. 29, 2024. (AP/Mahmoud Essa)

It would be the second time the IDF operated on the ground in Jabaliya after it was captured during the first months of Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas. The IDF later withdrew from north Gaza.

The evacuation order came as the IDF continued to operate in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood, after similarly identifying Hamas regrouping there.

Four soldiers were killed battling Hamas in Zeitoun on Friday.

IDF soldiers under the Nahal Brigade operate in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood, in a handout picture released on May 10, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government have long faced criticism over their refusal to make a plan for the management of Gaza after the war.

Hamas has reportedly reasserted significant civil control in a number of areas of the enclave after troops swept through and then left.

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 attacks, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

The ensuing war has killed over 34,800 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, though data issued by the Hamas-run authorities cannot be independently verified, and is believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

Israel has said it has killed some 15,000 terror operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7, while 271 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border.

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