Israel Plans Offensive on Gaza’s Rafah Despite International Outcry


The Israeli military said Saturday that its forces have arrested more than 100 terror suspects at the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. Several suspects were killed during the search of the hospital, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The IDF also has denied allegations that its soldiers targeted the hospital’s generators. Reports have emerged that the Israeli military targeted the generators and that the failure of the generators resulted in deaths at the hospital.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says nearly 29,000 people — most of them women and children — have died since Israel declared war on Hamas, following the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel in which approximately 250 people were taken hostage and 1,200 were killed.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Friday that Israel is “thoroughly planning” a military offensive in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, despite growing international concerns about the safety of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians seeking refuge there.

U.S. President Joe Biden has urged Israel not to carry out the operation without a credible plan to protect civilians and to instead focus on a cease-fire. Egypt has said an offensive on Rafah could threaten diplomatic relations between the countries. Many other world leaders have issued similar messages of concern.

An estimated 1.4 million Palestinians, more than half of Gaza’s population, have crammed into Rafah, most of them displaced by fighting elsewhere in the territory. Hundreds of thousands are living in sprawling tent camps.

Biden said Friday that he has had numerous lengthy phone conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the past several days and that he asked Netanyahu for a temporary cease-fire in Gaza to get the hostages out.

“I’m still hopeful that that can be done,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

“I’m hoping that the Israelis will not make any massive land invasion in the meantime. So, it’s my expectation that’s not going to happen. There has to be a cease-fire,” he said, adding that it was not just Israelis held hostage. “It’s American hostages as well,” he said, and expressed hope that they would be brought home.

Biden said hostage negotiations are taking place.

The International Court of Justice on Friday rejected a South African request to impose urgent measures to safeguard Rafah but also stressed that Israel must respect measures imposed late last month at a preliminary stage in a landmark genocide case.

The ICJ said in a statement the “perilous situation” in Rafah “demands immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures indicated by the Court in its Order of 26 January 2024, which are applicable throughout the Gaza Strip, including in Rafah, and does not demand the indication of additional provisional measures.”

The world court added that Israel “remains bound to fully comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention and with the said Order, including by ensuring the safety and security of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

Israel says it does all it can to spare civilians and is targeting only Hamas militants whose tactic is to hide in civilian areas, which makes it difficult for Israel to avert civilian casualties.

Last month the court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but the panel stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive that has eviscerated the Palestinian enclave.

Israel strongly denies committing genocide in Gaza.

Meanwhile the ICJ will hold six days of hearings starting Monday about the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Fifty-two states will present arguments at the hearings. The court is acting on a request made in 2022 by the U.N. General Assembly for a nonbinding opinion on the occupation.

Although Israel has ignored such opinions in the past, the hearing and subsequent ruling of the ICJ could add political pressure over its military offensive in Gaza.

Intensified airstrikes on Rafah are reportedly forcing people out of Gaza’s southernmost city toward central Gaza’s Deir al Balah, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The emergency relief coordinator, Martin Griffiths, is following with great concern the developments in Al Nasser hospital in Khan Younis. In a social media post, Griffiths said the wounded and sick, as well as medical personnel and facilities, must be protected.

Humanitarian and health workers continue to face enormous challenges and risks. From October 7 to February 12, there were 378 attacks on health care across Gaza, affecting 98 health facilities and 98 ambulances, according to the World Health Organization.

Israeli forces searched the grounds of southern Gaza’s main hospital Friday, a day after raiding the complex. The hospital’s generators stopped working after the raid, the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry said, and five patients in intensive care died when their oxygen was cut off.

Israel’s military said it took control of the hospital because it had intelligence that there were Israeli hostages and hostages’ bodies in the hospital. So far, no hostages or their bodies from the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel have been found at the site, according to Israeli military officials.

Gaza’s health ministry has accused the Israelis of disrupting the care of the hospital’s patients when they raided the building. The Israelis have denied that claim.

At least 28,576 Palestinians have been killed and 68,291 wounded in Israeli strikes on Gaza since October 7, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza.

The war started with the Hamas terror attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies, and led to the capture of about 240 hostages, 100 of whom were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November.__VOA News