Amid US alarm, PM indicates Rafah civilians will be able to evacuate before IDF op starts

Palestinians walk along a crowded main street in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 8, 2024, amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Palestinians walk along a crowded main street in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 8, 2024, amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicates that the over one million civilians who have crowded into the southern Gaza city of Rafah will be able to evacuate before the IDF begins operating there.

The statement comes amid US statements that Israel has not conducted the pre-operational planning necessary to ensure that civilians will be kept out of harm’s way and that failure to do so risks “disaster.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has instructed the IDF and defense establishment to present the cabinet with plans for both the evacuation of the Palestinian civilian population from the southern Gaza Strip, and the dismantlement of Hamas’s battalions in the Rafah area.

“It is impossible to achieve the war goal of eliminating Hamas and leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah,” Netanyahu’s office says in a statement.

“On the other hand, it is clear that a massive operation in Rafah requires the evacuation of the civilian population from the combat zones,” it adds.

More than 1.3 million Palestinians are estimated to be sheltering in the Rafah area, after the IDF issued evacuation warnings from northern Gaza and other areas in the Strip amid its ground offensive against Hamas.

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