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Rafah residents evacuate on Israeli military orders ahead of ground assault

WorldRafah residents evacuate on Israeli military orders ahead of ground assault

‘Worried and afraid’

President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday and “reiterated his clear position on Rafah,” the White House said, as world officials and aid groups urged Israel to halt any plans for a ground assault.

Samah Hadid, a spokesperson for the Norwegian Refugee Council, said she feared the evacuation orders were the “start of the nightmare scenario that we’ve been dreading for months.”

“We’ve been warning against a military operation in Rafah because the consequences will be deadly and devastating for the over 1 million IDPs in the area,” Hadid said in a phone interview early Monday, using the acronym for internally displaced persons.

Hadid also warned that she did not believe the Al-Mawasi area was equipped for a mass influx of people, despite Israel’s assurances that the expanded humanitarian area would include “field hospitals, tents, increased quantities of food, water, medicines and additional supplies.”

Hadid called on the Biden administration to “use its influence and leverage over Israel” to block any military operation in Rafah.

“We need this to happen urgently so that the Israelis get a clear message from their strongest ally that a military offensive in one of the largest displacement sites in the world cannot take place,” she said.

“We have yet to see real pressure applied.”

While Israel has only ordered those in the east of the city to evacuate, Hadid said that this may only be the beginning of a broader effort, a concern echoed by Palestinians in other parts of Rafah.

Abdallah Abujaser, a 22-year-old who had been studying clinical psychology before the war, said that he was just outside the evacuation zone — but feared he, too, would soon be forced to leave.

“Everyone here is worried and afraid,” he said.

Abujaser said he and most others in Gaza are also exhausted as they weigh fleeing once again or facing Israel’s offensive, which local health officials say has already killed more than 34,700 people. Israel launched its assault on Gaza following the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks, in which some 1,200 people were killed and 250 others taken hostage into Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

Abujaser called on countries around the world, including the U.S., to do what they can to “stop the war on us.”

“We are not running away from fear. We are running away for life, to secure our lives,” he said.

CORRECTION (May 7, 2024, 9:20 a.m. ET): Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misstated when the population of Rafah reached 1.4 million people. It is since the Israel-Hamas war started, not before.

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