Terrified refugees prepare for Israeli onslaught on Rafah

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Since October, Israeli forces have driven the residents of Gaza ever further south. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is now threatening to attack Rafah on the border with Egypt. Photo: AP / NTB

Israel claims to have defeated Hamas in Khan Younis and is now moving south towards Rafah. Over 1 million terrified war refugees await there, half of them children.

Published:

Less than 20 minutes ago

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed all Thursday that Israeli forces had achieved their objective and that the armed forces of the Hamas movement in Khan Younis had disintegrated.

However, there are still reports of attacks and fierce fighting in the city.

According to Palestinian health authorities, over 100 people were killed in the Gaza Strip on the night of Friday, and according to Gallant, the Israeli ground forces are now heading south towards Rafah on the border with Egypt.

The UN fears the worst and indicates that over 1 million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge in the Rafah area.

According to Palestinian health authorities, over 10,000 children have been killed in the Israeli attacks on Gaza, tens of thousands have been injured and thousands have lost one or both parents in the war. Photo: AP / NTB

Pressure cooker

– Rafah is a pressure cooker of despair, and we fear what is to come, says a spokesman for the UN Office for Emergency Relief (OCHA), Jens Lærke.

– Every single week we think that this can’t get any worse, but it does get worse, he says.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also deeply concerned about what will happen if Israeli forces launch an offensive against Rafah.

– Rafah was previously a somewhat sleepy town with 200,000 inhabitants. Now they house over half of Gaza’s population. Where will these people go, asks WHO’s representative in the occupied Palestinian territories, Rik Peeperkorn.

– This cannot happen, Rafah must not be attacked, he says.

Fear for the children

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) sounded the alarm on Friday about the situation for children in the Gaza Strip, where around half of the inhabitants are minors.

Over 10,000 children have so far been killed in the Israeli attacks, and an estimated 17,000 have lost one or both parents or have been separated from their families. Almost all children in Gaza now need mental health care, according to Unicef.

– They cannot sleep, they have emotional outbursts and panic every time they hear a bomb, says Unicef’s communications manager in the Palestinian territories, Jonathan Crickx.

Before the war, Unicef ​​estimated that half a million children in Gaza needed mental health care or other psychosocial support.

– Today we estimate that almost all children need such support, and there are over 1 million children, says Crickx.

The UN has repeatedly warned against famine and epidemics if Israel does not stop the attacks and more food and health aid are allowed into the Gaza Strip.
The UN has repeatedly warned against famine and epidemics if Israel does not stop the attacks and more food and health aid are allowed into the Gaza Strip. Photo: AP / NTB

Mothers are killed

UN Women, which coordinates the UN’s efforts to strengthen the position of girls and women, estimates that every single day two mothers are killed in the war, and tens of thousands of women and children are also among the more than 66,000 wounded in the Israeli attacks. Many of them are crippled for life.

Unicef ​​stated at the end of November that over 1,000 children in Gaza had had to have their arms or legs amputated, and these can look a long way for follow-up and rehabilitation as large parts of the healthcare system have been destroyed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 70 percent of all doctors in Gaza have either been killed, wounded, captured by Israeli forces or displaced, and the rest are fighting around the clock to deal with the flow of wounded.

Around 80 percent of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been displaced from their homes and now live in makeshift tents in the Rafah area in the far south of the enclave.
Around 80 percent of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been displaced from their homes and now live in makeshift tents in the Rafah area in the far south of the enclave. Photo: AP / NTB

Hope kindled

Earlier in the week, hope for a ceasefire was lit in Paris, where Israel and Hamas, with the help of mediators from Qatar and Egypt, agreed on a draft ceasefire.

The draft will be designed in collaboration with CIA chief William Burns and involves a three-phase ceasefire. According to informed sources, the first phase will last six weeks and open up emergency aid to Gaza’s residents.

Women, children, the sick and hostages over the age of 60 are scheduled to be released by Hamas, and Israel is to release an unknown number of Palestinian prisoners in return.

The withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, as well as further prisoner exchanges, will then be negotiated.

– This proposal has been approved by the Israeli side, and we have now received positive confirmations from Hamas, stated a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Qatar, Majed al-Ansari, on Thursday.

Over half of the Gaza Strip's inhabitants have now sought refuge in the Rafah area on the border with Egypt. Now Israeli forces are warning of an offensive against the area.
Over half of the Gaza Strip’s inhabitants have now sought refuge in the Rafah area on the border with Egypt. Now Israeli forces are warning of an offensive against the area. Photo: AP / NTB

Rushed

However, Hamas sources stressed that the movement has not yet given its endorsement to the plan.

– There is still no framework agreement. The various factions have important views and the announcement from Qatar is rushed, said a source.

One of the advisers to the political leader of the Hamas movement Ismail Haniyeh, Taher Al-Nono, also emphasized that Hamas has not yet given its official comment on the draft that is now on the table.

Haniyeh will now be in Cairo, but on Friday afternoon there had still been no official reaction from Hamas to the draft ceasefire agreement.

Almost all Palestinian children in Gaza struggle with war trauma and need mental health care, according to Unicef. The Israeli attacks mean that none of them get it.
Almost all Palestinian children in Gaza struggle with war trauma and need mental health care, according to Unicef. The Israeli attacks mean that none of them get it. Photo: AP / NTB
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Published: 02.02.24 at 14:22

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The article is in Norwegian

Tags: Terrified refugees prepare Israeli onslaught Rafah

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