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Israeli ground invasion of Rafah will happen 'very soon', say reports

Land operation appears imminent according to Israeli media, as tents to displace Palestinians once again erected in southern Gaza
Tent camps for displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on 23 April 2024 (AFP/Maxar Technologies)
Tent camps for displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on 23 April 2024 (AFP/Maxar Technologies)

An Israeli ground invasion of southern Gaza's Rafah appears imminent, Israeli media reported on Wednesday, with preparations being put in place to eject tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians who are crowded into the city. 

The incursion into Rafah - where over 1 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering in tents and makeshift camps - will happen "very soon," according to a report in newspaper Israel Hayom.

The report stated that the decision to press ahead with the planned ground operation was taken after Hamas rejected the most recent Israeli proposal for a truce deal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office and an Israeli military spokesperson's office did not immediately comment on the reports.

Israeli sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Israel had procured tens of thousands of tents to "evacuate" Palestinian civilians from Rafah over the coming weeks.

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Palestinians have said that nowhere is safe from Israeli bombardment in the besieged Gaza Strip, since Israel's war on Gaza began in October.

Tents appear in southern Gaza as Israel prepares Rafah offensive

Drag the button to see the build up of tents

Rafah, which was previously marked by Israel as a "safe zone", has been pummelled with air strikes since the outbreak of war. 

Tent city being prepared

Israel's defence ministry bought 40,000 tents, with a capacity of 10 to 12 people in each one, to house displaced Palestinians ejected from Rafah, government sources told Reuters. 

Satellite photos show new tents being built in Rafah

Drag the button to see the build up of tents

Videos shared online showed tents being erected in the city of Khan Younis, around 5km away from Rafah. 

Satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed rows of tents at a site in Khan Younis this week, which were not there earlier this month. Similar images also showed tents being erected in the outskirts of Rafah. 

Rafah: The Sinai-Gaza oasis city divided by a contentious border
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"Hamas was hit hard in the northern sector. It was also hit hard in the centre of the Strip. And soon it will be hit hard in Rafah, too," Itzik Cohen, Israeli commander of the 162nd Division operating in Gaza, told the Kan public broadcaster on Tuesday.

"Hamas should know that when the IDF (Israeli army) goes into Rafah, it would do best to raise its hands in surrender. Rafah will not be the Rafah of today... There won't be munitions there. And there won't be hostages there."

On Wednesday, the Israeli military said it had mobilised two reservist brigades for operations in the Gaza Strip.

Before 7 October, Rafah, which spans just 64 sqkm, was already overpopulated and wracked by poverty and harsh living conditions due to a 17-year Israeli blockade. 

Since then, after Israel forcibly ejected Palestinians from northern and central Gaza towards the south, Rafah's population has quintupled in a matter of months to around 1.5 million. 

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