Mideast crisis: Hamas responded to ceasefire proposal, officials say

Mideast crisis: Hamas responded to ceasefire proposal, officials say

Palestinians sheltering in crowded tent cities along the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt were worried Tuesday after a senior Israeli minister reiterated that the Israeli ground invasion would extend to Rafah, the southernmost town of the enclave where hundreds of thousands of displaced people found themselves. .

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s statement left Palestinians — many of whom are exhausted after moving repeatedly and sleeping in tents in cold, rainy weather — uncertain about where to seek shelter. It was at least the second time in recent days that Mr. Gallant has committed to making such a breakthrough.

“We are terrified,” said Rajab al-Sindawi, a 48-year-old second-hand clothes seller from Gaza City. “We fled death, moving from place to place, but now we are at the border. Where should we go?”

Mr. al-Sindawi, his wife and their seven children arrived in Rafah in early January after moving several times in search of safety.

As the military considers Rafah as its next operational target, security officials need to do more planning before sending ground forces to the area, said an Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to communicate with the media.

Entering Rafah will be “extremely complicated,” the official said, stressing that security officials were taking into account Egyptian sensitivities regarding Israeli forces operating near the border, as well as the huge civilian population.

The al-Sindawis live in a makeshift structure of loose plastic draped over wooden beams on a sidewalk in Rafah’s Tel al-Sultan neighborhood. Although they tried to make their camp more livable, adding a table to prepare food, it was difficult to keep the space clean, especially with the mud caused by recent rains.

Mr. al-Sindawi, whose left leg is partially paralyzed, said he and his family had only two mattress pads and six blankets to lie on.


Rajab al-Sindawi sent a video to New York Times reporter Adam Rasgon showing the makeshift tents where he and his family live in Rafah.CreditCredit…Rajab al-Sindawi

Over the past day, Israeli forces have struck structures across Gaza, including near the Nasser Medical Complex in the southern town of Khan Younis, the territory’s second largest hospital. The Israeli military said its forces continued to battle militants in western Khan Younis. He also said he carried out an airstrike that killed an Islamic Jihad fighter in Deir al Balah in central Gaza, who he said had participated in Hamas-led attacks on Israel on October 7.

More than 100 people were killed in the previous 24 hours, Gaza’s health ministry announced Tuesday morning.

Speaking at a news conference Monday, Gallant said Israeli ground forces would invade locations they have yet to reach in central and southern Gaza, including Rafah, which he called it “the last bastion remaining in the hands of Hamas”.

“All terrorists hiding in Rafah should know that their end will be like that of Khan Younis, Gaza City and any other place in the Gaza Strip: surrender or death,” Gallant said.

The comments, which came while Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was in the region to press for a ceasefire, were consistent with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position that Israel will continue to fight Hamas in Gaza until “complete victory”. Israel is still awaiting the armed group’s response to a first proposed framework for a ceasefire and the release of more Israeli hostages from Gaza.

As the land invasion has gradually pushed the inhabitants of Gaza further and further south, the population of Rafah is estimated to have quintupled since the start of the war, according to the United Nations. Egypt has rejected the idea of ​​opening its border to allow large numbers of displaced people to take temporary refuge on its territory.

Sana al-Karabiti, 34, from Gaza City, said the possibility of ground troops entering Rafah brought back harrowing memories of when Israeli tanks entered her neighborhood at the start of the war.

“I feel my hair turning gray,” said Ms. al-Karabiti, a pharmacist huddled under a tent in Rafah’s al-Salam neighborhood. “I keep wondering what I will do if they get to where I am.”

In Rafah, a small number of people were already dismantling their tents, packing their bags and fleeing towards central Gaza, but Mr. al-Sindawi was not sure whether he would be safer there. -down.

“We are planning to go to Nuseirat, but we are also hearing on the news about bombings in Nuseirat,” he said, referring to an area in central Gaza where his family members live. “We don’t know what to do.”

Other displaced Palestinians were frustrated that Israeli officials told them Rafah would be safe – but now they are talking about entering the city.

“Why did they tell us to come here? said Mukhlis al-Masri, 32, who attends a United Nations school in Rafah. “It is so unfair.”

Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting from London.

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Eric D. Eilerman

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