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Israel proposes plan for refugees ahead of impending Rafah operation

US will reportedly not ‘punish’ early Israeli incursion into Rafah

Palestinians at a temporary tent camp set up for evacuees from Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on Jan. 30, 2024. (Photo: Atia Mohammed/Flash90)

Israel has proposed setting up tent compounds for Palestinian evacuees currently sheltering in Rafah, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The arrangement is reportedly part of a developing plan funded by the United States and Arab countries, in preparation for an IDF ground operation. 

It is estimated that more than half of the Gaza Strip's population is currently located in Rafah, near the Egyptian border, with most dwelling in an overcrowded makeshift tent city having evacuated from other parts of the Strip.

According to the United Nations, some 1.5 million people are currently living in Rafah, which is roughly six times the city’s population before the Oct. 7 war began. 

The proposal entails Israel overseeing the construction of approximately 15 campsites, each equipped with around 25,000 tents, to facilitate the evacuation of Gaza civilians, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The Lebanese news site Al-Akhbar noted that the establishment of the tent cities would be a collaborative effort between Israel, the United States, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE. The funding and construction of the tent cities largely being the responsibility of the United States and its Arab partners. The tent cities would also include medical field clinics. 

The Al-Akhbar report said the communities will be run by "mukhtars," government officials appointed by authorities, and who are in no way affiliated with Hamas. 

The WSJ noted that Israel presented the plan to Egypt in recent days, however, the WSJ said it received no responses from Egyptian or Israeli officials regarding the proposal. 

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it had not received any notification from Israel of a plan to evacuate the Rafah area. The ministry also said the UN would not participate in any "forced evacuation" of civilians. 

U.S. President Joe Biden recently said that any Israeli military action in Rafah should be preceded by a “credible” plan to ensure the safety and welfare of the over one million civilians seeking shelter in Rafah. 

However, according to a report in Politico, the Biden administration is not planning to “punish” Israel if it expands its military operations into Rafah before the humanitarian zones are established. 

Meanwhile, Egypt has presented conflicting responses to the incursion into Rafah. The country, which has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1979, appeared to recently threaten to suspend the treaty if any Palestinians tried to cross the border into Egypt during a Rafah ground operation.

To prepare for such an event, Egypt has strengthened its border security, sending tanks and armored personnel carriers to the border communities. 

However, on Tuesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said his government is committed to upholding the peace treaty, reassuring the Israeli government that an IDF military operation in Rafah would not end the treaty. 

Egypt also reportedly warned Hamas, during negotiations for a renewed hostage deal, that Israel could invade Rafah in the next two weeks.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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