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May 29, 2024

Israel Launches Ground Offensive in Gaza City of Rafah

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Feb 6, 2024

Israel has launched a major ground offensive in Rafah, a city in the Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt, representing a dangerous escalation in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Over 275,000 Palestinians have been killed or injured and over 100,000 are estimated missing or presumed dead according to health officials in Gaza. The UN warns of a humanitarian catastrophe as over 2 million residents have fled their homes.

Background of the Conflict

The current escalation started in May 2023, when clashes erupted at the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem amid rising tensions over Israeli restrictions on access to the holy site during Ramadan. This led to an exchange of rocket fire between Gaza militants and Israel that has continued intermittently since then.

Over the past months, Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have destroyed major infrastructure and thousands of homes. Gaza militants have launched sporadic rocket barrages into Israel. Numerous attempts at a ceasefire have failed to take hold.

The densely populated Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took control of the area in 2007. Nearly half of Gaza’s population are children under the age of 18. The blockade and recurrent wars have ruined Gaza’s economy, left much of its infrastructure in ruins, and denied its people essential services like power and clean water.

Escalation in Rafah

On February 2nd, Israel announced plans for a ground offensive on Rafah. The city in southern Gaza is home to over 200,000 people and sits on the border with Egypt. It’s considered the last area in Gaza that wasn’t already evacuated under Israeli orders.

Rafah is seen as a refuge for Palestinians fleeing intense Israeli bombardment in other parts of Gaza. Over one million displaced Palestinians have flooded into the area in recent weeks.

Aid agencies warn that an all-out assault on Rafah could spur a humanitarian catastrophe. Gaza’s health system is already overwhelmed by staggering casualties from 10 months of intense aerial bombardment across the territory.

“An attack on Rafah risks massive civilian deaths and pushing Gaza over the edge into outright catastrophe,” the EU’s top diplomat said in a sharply worded statement February 2nd.

Devastation Across Gaza

Israeli missiles and artillery shells have pounded densely populated areas across Gaza for months, destroying vital infrastructure like hospitals, roads, schools and power plants.

Entire neighbourhoods have been reduced to rubble. Rights groups estimate Israeli strikes have rendered over 100,000 housing units across Gaza uninhabitable. Key statistics:

  • Over 275,000 Palestinians killed or injured
  • 100,000+ missing or presumed dead
  • 2 million+ residents evacuated their homes
  • 500,000+ people displaced in Rafah
  • 13 hospitals damaged or destroyed
  • 800,000 left without piped water
  • 1.1 million face food insecurity

On February 3rd, an Israeli strike hit a kindergarten in southern Gaza, killing children and teachers. Palestinian officials said it was the 30th school Israel destroyed since May 2023. They accuse Israel of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure.

Israel says Hamas militants use sites like schools and hospitals to store weapons or launch rocket attacks, and that strikes aim to cripple Hamas’ terror infrastructure.

Fears of Humanitarian Fallout

Aid groups are sounding alarms about a brewing humanitarian crisis as food, water and medical supplies across Gaza near total depletion.

Hospitals are overflowing with wounded people and lacking basics like antibiotics and anaesthetics, healthcare workers say.

The UN refugee agency UNRWA, which provides essential food and cash assistance to more than 1 million Gazans, was forced to suspend operations in January because the safety of its staff could no longer be guaranteed.

UN officials warn Gaza could soon become “unliveable” if the violence continues to escalate.

“An all-out offensive on Rafah risks pushing Gaza deep into an outright humanitarian catastrophe,” the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Gaza told CNN February 5th.

International Reaction

Israel’s key ally, the United States, said it “strongly supports” Israel’s right to self defence against Hamas rocket attacks, while encouraging all sides to de-escalate and return to ceasefire talks.

Arab states have pressured Israel to halt attacks. In Europe, Germany, France and Britain called for restraint and warned against extending the war zone into Rafah.

Global human rights groups accused Israel of apparent war crimes during raids on Gaza that left entire families wiped out. Both sides may have committed war crimes according to a UN Commission of Inquiry report.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced in January it will formally investigate alleged war crimes committed by both Israeli forces and Hamas militants since May 2023.

What Comes Next?

All eyes are now on Rafah as Israel threatens a ground invasion that could prompt close quarters urban warfare. Israeli officials have ramped up warnings in recent weeks that they will wage all-out war on Hamas even if it causes massive destruction and loss of life.

For its part, Hamas has shown no signs of backing down from sporadic rocket attacks despite overwhelming Israeli firepower.

If world powers cannot force a return to ceasefire talks, the coming days and weeks may see an even greater escalation in violence as a deadly cycle of strikes, counter strikes and reprisals continues with no end in sight.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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