Over the past day, Israeli forces have hit structures across Gaza, including in the vicinity of the Nasser Medical Complex in the southern city of Khan Younis, the second-largest hospital in the territory. The Israeli army said its forces were continuing to fight militants in western Khan Younis. It also said it conducted an airstrike that killed an Islamic Jihad fighter in the central Gaza city of Deir al Balah who it said had participated in the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7.
More than 100 people were killed in the previous 24 hours, the Gazan health ministry said Tuesday morning.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Mr. Gallant said Israeli ground forces would invade places that they still had not reached in central and southern Gaza, including Rafah, which he labeled “the last stronghold remaining in Hamas’s hands.”
“Every terrorist hiding in Rafah should know that their end will be like those in Khan Younis, Gaza City and every other place in the Gaza Strip: surrender or death,” Mr. Gallant said.
The comments, which came as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was in the region to press for a cease-fire, were in line with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance that Israel would continue fighting Hamas in Gaza until “complete victory.” Israel is still awaiting the armed group’s response to a proposed initial framework for a cease-fire and the release of more Israeli hostages from Gaza.
With the ground invasion having steadily pushed Gazans farther and farther south, Rafah’s population is believed to have roughly 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 the displaced to take temporary refuge on its territory.
Sana al-Karabiti, 34, originally from Gaza City, said the possibility of ground troops entering Rafah was bringing back harrowing memories of when Israeli tanks pulled into her neighborhood early in the war.
“I can feel my hair turning gray,” said Ms. al-Karabiti, a pharmacist who has been huddling in a tent in the al-Salam neighborhood of Rafah. “I keep asking myself what I’ll do if they reach where I am.”
A small number of people in Rafah were already dismantling their tents, packing their bags and fleeing to central Gaza, but Mr. al-Sindawi was unsure whether it would be safer there.
“We’re thinking about going to Nuseirat, but we’re also hearing in the news about bombings in Nuseirat,” he said, referring to an area in central Gaza where his family members live. “We have no idea what to do.”
Other displaced Palestinians were frustrated that Israeli officials had told them Rafah would be safe — but are now talking about entering the city.
“Why did they tell us to come here?” said Mukhlis al-Masri, 32, who has been staying at a United Nations school in Rafah. “This is so unjust.”
Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting from London.