Israel Plans to Evacuate Civilians from Gaza amid Escalating Conflict

The Israeli army has proposed a plan to evacuate civilians from the areas of fighting in the Gaza Strip, where Israel has been conducting a relentless military campaign against Hamas and other Palestinian groups since October 7, 2023. The plan was presented to the war cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Monday, Feb. 26, according to a statement from his office .

The statement did not provide any details about the evacuation plan, such as how, when, and where the civilians would be evacuated, or how many of them would be affected. It also did not specify whether the plan was approved or rejected by the war cabinet, which has the final say on any military operation .

The statement also said that the war cabinet approved a plan to deliver humanitarian aid safely into the besieged territory, where more than 2 million Palestinians live under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. The statement did not mention any coordination with the United Nations or other international organizations that have been trying to provide relief to the suffering population .

A Controversial Decision by Netanyahu to Invade Rafah

The proposal by the Israeli army came amid a controversial decision by Netanyahu to launch a ground invasion of the southernmost city of Rafah, where around 1.4 million Palestinians have sought refuge from the Israeli bombardment. Netanyahu said that the invasion was necessary to achieve a “total victory” over Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and to destroy its tunnels and rocket launchers .

The invasion, which began on Sunday, Feb. 25, has met with fierce resistance from Hamas and other Palestinian factions, who have vowed to fight until the end. The invasion has also sparked international condemnation and calls for an immediate ceasefire, as well as protests and solidarity rallies across the world .

The invasion has also raised fears of a humanitarian catastrophe and a mass displacement of civilians, who have already endured more than four months of war, with no access to basic services, such as water, electricity, health care, and education. The war has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and injured more than 10,000 others, according to the Hamas-run health ministry .

A Regional and International Effort to Broker a Ceasefire

The proposal by the Israeli army also came amid a regional and international effort to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and to end the bloodshed and suffering in Gaza. Several countries and organizations, including Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations, have been involved in the mediation process, which has faced many obstacles and challenges .

The United States, which is Israel’s main ally and supporter, has also been trying to facilitate a truce, but has faced criticism for its reluctance to pressure Israel to stop its attacks or to support a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is on a tour of the Middle East, met with Netanyahu in Israel on Monday, Feb. 26, and discussed the situation in Gaza and the prospects for peace .

Blinken said that the US was working with its partners to achieve a “durable and sustainable” ceasefire, and to address the humanitarian needs and the underlying causes of the conflict. He also said that the US was committed to the two-state solution and to the security and dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians .

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