Israel seeks 40,000 tents to evacuate Rafah civilians; hostage talks with Hamas languish

IDF strikes targets across Gaza, says it took out terrorist who participated in October 7 onslaught that started war; UN chief urges journalists be allowed into Strip

A tent camp housing Palestinians displaced by the Israeli offensive is seen in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. (Hatem Ali/ AP)
A tent camp housing Palestinians displaced by the Israeli offensive is seen in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. (Hatem Ali/ AP)

Israel is purchasing 40,000 tents to prepare for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Rafah, before it starts its offensive on the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli official confirmed Tuesday.

As Israel pushes ahead with plans for the promised — but controversial — military operation, the Israel Defense Forces also carried out strikes across the Gaza Strip overnight, one of which it said killed a terrorist who participated in the Hamas onslaught of October 7 that started the ongoing war.

After a flurry of optimism on Monday over a US proposal for at least a temporary ceasefire that would include the release of some Israeli hostages abducted during the Hamas assault, the terror group gave a tepid initial response, saying not enough of its demands were being met.

Four Hamas battalions are believed to be stationed in Rafah. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that without launching an offensive in the city, Israel won’t be able to achieve the goals laid out at the start of the war of defeating the terror group.

Rafah is also thought to be where many Hamas leaders are hiding, possibly along with hostages.

The population of Rafah has swelled to more than one million people — or half of Gaza’s total population — since the start of the war as civilians evacuated southward to flee the fighting between Israel and Hamas. The international community, including the US, is vehemently opposed to an Israeli offensive in Rafah, saying it would endanger civilians and lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.

A Palestinian man ferries water at a makeshift camp for displaced people in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 4, 2024 (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Israel has said it has a plan to evacuate civilians ahead of its offensive, and the Defense Ministry on Monday published a tender seeking a supplier of 40,000 tents.

The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the tents were part of the Rafah preparations and would be enough to shelter nearly 500,000 people.

Netanyahu said Monday that a date had been set for the offensive, though he has announced his authorization of IDF operational plans for Rafah at least four times over the past two months. No offensive is anticipated in the immediate future, particularly after the IDF on Sunday withdrew entirely from Khan Younis, further shrinking its troop presence in Gaza.

The Gaza war began when Palestinian terror group Hamas led a devastating cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people. The thousands of attackers who burst through the boundary with the Gaza Strip also abducted 253 people who were taken as hostages into the Palestinian enclave.

Israel responded with a military offensive to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza, destroy the terror group, and free the hostages, of whom 129 remain in captivity.

Despite withdrawing most of its troops, Israel has continued efforts to kill Hamas terrorists, particularly senior leaders.

The IDF said a recent airstrike in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis killed a terrorist who participated in the October 7 onslaught.

IDF soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip in an undated handout photo cleared for publication on April 9, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Also over the past day, the Israeli Air Force struck several sites belonging to terror groups across the Gaza Strip, including buildings, rocket launch positions, and other infrastructure, according to the IDF.

Among the targets were a building and tunnel shafts adjacent to a launch site used in a Monday rocket attack on Kibbutz Re’im, which lies close to the Gaza border, the IDF said.

In the central Gaza Strip, “troops eliminated a number of terrorists in close-quarter combat,” it said. “Several additional terrorists who posed a threat to the troops were eliminated by aircraft strikes and precise sniper fire.”

The IDF also confirmed carrying out a strike in Gaza’s Maghazi camp the night before, killing Hatem al-Ghamri, the head of the so-called emergency committee in the central part of the Strip. The emergency committee is a Hamas body tasked with maintaining order and civil control in the Strip’s municipalities.

Hatem al-Ghamri, the head of the Hamas ’emergency committee’ in Gaza, who was killed in an overnight strike in central Gaza’s Maghazi camp on April 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to the IDF, al-Ghamri, in addition to being head of the emergency committee in the Central Camps, was also an operative in the Hamas military wing, responsible for rocket fire from the Maghazi area.

Palestinian media reported that at least five people were killed in the strike.

Alongside the fighting, efforts continued to reach a deal for a hostage release and a truce.

More than six months into the war, Hamas said it was “studying” a new proposal for a temporary truce submitted during talks with US, Qatari, and Egyptian mediators.

Under the plan, fighting would stop for six weeks, 40 women and child hostages would be exchanged for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, and up to 500 aid trucks would enter Gaza per day, a Hamas source said.

Hamas said it “appreciates” the mediators’ latest efforts but accused Israel of failing to respond to its long-standing demands, including a full withdrawal of forces from Gaza.

Israel has emphatically rejected that condition and also Hamas’s demand that tens of thousands of displaced Gazans who fled the fighting in the north of the coastal territory be permitted to return unhindered to their homes. Israel is reportedly seeking terms that would enable it to ensure that Hamas fighters don’t take advantage of the situation to reposition in northern Gaza.

People walk by photographs of Israeli civilians held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Tel Aviv. April 9, 2023. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Also Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for Israel to allow foreign journalists to enter the Gaza Strip, claiming that an “information war” is worsening the impact of the conflict.

“Denying international journalists entry into Gaza is allowing disinformation and false narratives to flourish,” he wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

His statement coincided with a statement from the Foreign Press Association, which assists foreign reporters covering events in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, that called for Israel to allow foreign press to return to enter the Palestinian enclave.

“The barring of independent press access to a war zone for this long is unprecedented for Israel,” the statement read. “It raises questions about what Israel does not want international journalists to see.”

“The decision whether to be on the ground in Gaza should be up to each individual international media outlet,” the FPA added. “The blanket ban has limited the world’s ability to witness the true cost of the war to all sides.”

In January, the High Court ruled that Israel could continue barring foreign journalists from accessing the Strip, citing ongoing security concerns after months in which only Gazans or correspondents accompanied by the army have been able to report from the enclave.

Illustrative: Foreign and Israeli journalists stand on a hill overlooking the Gaza Strip in the city of Sderot, southern Israel, October 19, 2023. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

In their ruling, High Court justices Ruth Ronen, Khaled Kabub, and Daphne Barak-Erez accepted the Defense Ministry’s stance that the escorted tours provided an appropriate measure of press freedom given “extreme security concerns at this time and concrete security threats that go with approving entry permits for independent journalists.”

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said Tuesday more than 33,360 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 13,000 Hamas gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Most Popular
read more: