Ahead of an expected ground invasion in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the IDF to prepare to evacuate the civilian population of the city.
Netanyahu made the announcement on Friday after Israel reported that Rafah was the last remaining Hamas stronghold.
Situated in southern Gaza on the Egyptian border, Hamas’s power in Rafah means the terror group controls the crossing where humanitarian aid and smuggled goods enter Gaza.
There has been international criticism of Israel’s plan to invade the crowded town, where an estimated 1.5 million Palestinians have relocated after fleeing fighting elsewhere in Gaza.
Reports of the planned clearing of Rafah comes after Israel conducted airstrikes on Rafah early Friday morning.
According to reports, airstrikes overnight and into Friday hit two buildings in the city, while two other sites were bombed in central Gaza. Associated Press reported that 22 people were killed.
On Thursday, Joe Biden said that the US did not support the planned offensive in Rafah without consideration for the civilian population.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that an Israeli offensive in Rafah is “not something we would support.”
Biden also described Israel’s response to Hamas’s October 7 massacre as “over the top,” adding that he was seeking a “sustained pause” in the war.
“I’m of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in the Gaza Strip has been over the top,” Biden told reporters at the White House.
“I’m pushing very hard now to deal with this hostage ceasefire. There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying and it’s gotta stop,” he said.