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Desperate Palestinians in Gaza’s Rafah fear coming Israeli assault By Reuters

Desperate Palestinians in Gaza's Rafah fear coming Israeli assault

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© Reuters. A displaced Palestinian woman holds her son as she waits to get him examined by a doctor, outside a medical tent, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip February 11, 2024. REUTERS/Saleh Salem

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By Mohammad Salem and Nidal al-Mughrabi

RAFAH, Gaza Strip/DOHA (Reuters) – The Abu Mustafa family’s tent is hard against the high concrete and metal fence separating Gaza from Egypt in Rafah, the last relatively safe place in an enclave devastated by Israel’s military offensive, but one that may now also come under attack.

The family is among more than a million Palestinians now crammed into the area around Rafah and fearing they have nowhere left to flee inside a tiny strip largely reduced to rubble and where fighting still rages.

“Every day, we’re on the run. Being displaced is tough because I have two daughters with disabilities. I can’t carry them around. I don’t have a car or a cart,” said Laila Abu Mustafa.

“If there will be more displacement, I’m not moving,” she said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered an evacuation plan for the civilians who crowd Rafah, camping in streets and empty lots, on the beach and like the Abu Mustafa family on the sandy strip along the Egyptian border.

Aid agencies say that any assault on the city will be catastrophic in a war that has already caused untold misery.

The war began on Oct. 7 when the militant group Hamas that controls Gaza stormed the border fence with Israel, sending in fighters who killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized about 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Four months later, Gaza is in ruins. Under a massive daily bombardment, Israeli ground forces have overrun most of the enclave, smashing houses, public buildings and infrastructure with air raids, artillery fire and controlled detonations.

Palestinian health authorities say more than 28,000 people have been killed in the war, about 70% of them women and children. More than 85% of Gazans are homeless. A U.N. survey found that nearly one in 10 children under five are acutely malnourished.

Talks for a deal on a ceasefire and the release of hostages have so far failed to bring an agreement. Last week Israel rejected a Hamas proposal, saying it would not stop fighting while the group retained brigades that Israel says are hiding in Rafah.

Egyptian security sources said more high-level talks were planned for Tuesday with senior officials…

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