Report: Rafah operation will take 6 weeks, including Gaza civilian evacuation

Rescue workers search for survivors under the rubble of a building hit in overnight Israeli strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 21, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
Rescue workers search for survivors under the rubble of a building hit in overnight Israeli strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 21, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces is gearing up to evacuate Palestinian civilians from Gaza’s southernmost city in Rafah ahead of its planned offensive there, according to Israeli and Egyptian officials quoted by the Wall Street Journal.

Egyptian officials briefed on Israeli plans are quoted as saying that the first two to three weeks of the operation will consist of evacuating civilians, in coordination with the US, Egypt and other Arab countries.

The evacuation will reportedly involve moving civilians to the nearby city of Khan Younis, among other areas, and setting up shelters with tents, food and medical facilities.

After that, the IDF will gradually move troops into Rafah and target “areas where Israel believes Hamas leaders and fighters are hiding,” the officials say.

Israel has said Rafah, where four of Hamas’s 24 battalions are deployed, remains Hamas’s last major stronghold in the Strip after the IDF operated in the north and center of the Palestinian enclave.

The Egyptian officials say fighting in Rafah is expected to last at least six weeks, according to the report, though timing “remains uncertain.”

An Israeli security official quoted in the report says that the IDF will “have a very tight operational plan because it’s very complex there.”

As well as destroying the remaining four Hamas battalions believed to be hiding in Rafah, Israel believes that many of the remaining 129 hostages kidnapped in the terror group’s October 7 massacre are being held in the southern Gaza city.

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