Israel Plans to Expand ‘Humanitarian Zone’ if It Invades Rafah

If Israel were to begin an invasion in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering, an Israeli-designated “humanitarian zone” along the coast would be expanded to take in more civilians, an Israeli military official said Monday evening.

The comments were among the first indications of the Israeli military’s plans for civilians if it were to launch a major ground offensive in Rafah. The Biden administration has urged Israel to forgo such an operation because of the risks it would pose to displaced Palestinians.

Palestinians who have sought shelter in Rafah have been bracing for an Israeli incursion for months, huddling in crowded tents, schools and apartments. Before arriving in Rafah, many had followed earlier Israeli calls to evacuate other areas in Gaza only to encounter bombardment in those places too.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said that the army will enter Rafah to fight Hamas battalions there, bucking international pressure to back off any operation.

In the case of an invasion, Israel would tell Palestinians to go to the enlarged “humanitarian zone,” which would include a narrow strip of beachside land known as Al-Mawasi, and other unidentified areas in Gaza, said the Israeli military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The beachside area of Al-Mawasi is already packed with displaced Palestinians. Credit…Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images
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