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Israeli leader Netanyahu orders army to prepare Rafah offensive

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the country’s army to prepare for an offensive on the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

“It is impossible to achieve the goal of the war of eliminating Hamas by leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah,” he said.

“It is clear that intense activity in Rafah requires that civilians evacuate the areas of combat – a combined plan for evacuating the population and destroying the battalions,” he said in a statement issued by the prime minister’s office on Friday.

A military offensive in Rafah, located in the southernmost part of Gaza on the border with Egypt, could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe, the UN has warned, saying this would have ripple effects throughout the region.

The city, was home to some 300,000 people before the war, but has swelled to some 1.3 million Palestinians who are sheltering there now, having fled fighting throughout the rest of the densely-populated strip, in some cases following IDF orders.

“Half of Gaza’s population is now crammed into Rafah with nowhere to go,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a post on X.

The US government and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have also clearly opposed military action in Rafah in recent days.

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