Israel seeks 40,000 tents to evacuate Rafah civilians; hostage talks with Hamas languish

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Dec 29, 2008
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Israel is purchasing 40,000 tents to prepare for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Rafah, before it starts its offensive on the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli official confirmed Tuesday.

As Israel pushes ahead with plans for the promised — but controversial — military operation, the Israel Defense Forces also carried out strikes across the Gaza Strip overnight, one of which it said killed a terrorist who participated in the Hamas onslaught of October 7 that started the ongoing war.

After a flurry of optimism on Monday over a US proposal for at least a temporary ceasefire that would include the release of some Israeli hostages abducted during the Hamas assault, the terror group gave a tepid initial response, saying not enough of its demands were being met.

Four Hamas battalions are believed to be stationed in Rafah. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that without launching an offensive in the city, Israel won’t be able to achieve the goals laid out at the start of the war of defeating the terror group.

Rafah is also thought to be where many Hamas leaders are hiding, possibly along with hostages.

The population of Rafah has swelled to more than one million people — or half of Gaza’s total population — since the start of the war as civilians evacuated southward to flee the fighting between Israel and Hamas. The international community, including the US, is vehemently opposed to an Israeli offensive in Rafah, saying it would endanger civilians and lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.

Israel has said it has a plan to evacuate civilians ahead of its offensive, and the Defense Ministry on Monday published a tender seeking a supplier of 40,000 tents.

The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the tents were part of the Rafah preparations and would be enough to shelter nearly 500,000 people.



Israel has always said the Rafah operation will not take place until after the civilians have been evacuated, but this will be more difficult because the Biden administration's relentless criticism of a Rafah operation will convince many civilians Israel would not date to attack Rafah against Biden's wishes; hence higher civilian casualties than would be necessary if the US had taken a more reasonable position.
 

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