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Rafah Invasion: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu vows to carry out Rafah invasion, which US says would be a mistake

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has escalated his pledge to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which is filled with around 1.4 million Palestinians, most of whom are displaced from other parts of the Gaza Strip. “It will happen. There is a date,” Netanyahu said in a video statement Monday, without elaborating.

Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel must send ground forces into Rafah, saying it is Hamas’ last stronghold in Gaza.

But the international community, including the US, opposes the operation, saying the roughly 1.4 million civilians seeking shelter there will be in danger.

Israel has insisted it has a plan to protect the civilians.

In a video statement Monday, Netanyahu said the Rafah operation is essential for victory. He said, “It will happen. There is a date,” without elaborating. He spoke as Israeli negotiators were in Cairo discussing international efforts to broker a cease-fire deal with Hamas.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has said a ground operation into Rafah would be a mistake and has demanded to see a credible plan to protect civilians. Netanyahu spoke as Israeli negotiators are in Cairo discussing international efforts to broker a cease-fire deal with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Israeli troops withdrew Sunday from Khan Younis, another city in southern Gaza, ending a key phase of the war. Defense officials say they’re regrouping ahead of a push into Rafah. Palestinians who visited Khan Younis on Monday said the city is now unlivable, offering them little immediate chance to return. Many have been sheltering in Rafah. The Palestinian death toll from the war has passed 33,200, with nearly 76,000 wounded, Gaza’s Health Ministry said. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

The war began Oct 7 when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 people hostage.

Here’s the latest:

TURKEY RESTRICTS EXPORT OF DOZENS OF PRODUCTS TO ISRAEL

Turkey says it is restricting the export of dozens of products to Israel, including aluminum, steel, construction materials and chemical fertilizers over Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

The decision announced Tuesday came a day after Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said Ankara would impose measures against Israel for rejecting a request for Turkish military cargo planes to join an operation to airdrop aid to Gaza. He said Turkey would continue the measures until Israel declares a cease-fire and allows the uninterrupted flow of aid to Gaza.

The Turkish Ministry of Trade issued a list of 54 products subject to the export restrictions.

“This decision will remain in effect until Israel declares an immediate cease-fire in Gaza as part of its obligations arising from international law, and allows a sufficient and uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip,” the ministry said.

NATO-member Turkey is among the strongest critics of Israel’s military actions in Gaza. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has been criticised domestically for not halting trade with Israel.

ISRAELI OFFENSIVE IN KHAN YOUNIS DAMAGED MORE THAN HALF OF ALL BUILDINGS IN THE CITY, MAP EXPERTS SAY

A pair of mapping experts say Israel’s offensive in the southern Gaza City of Khan Younis appears to have left over half of the city’s buildings with damage or destruction visible from space.

As of last week, over 55% of the city’s buildings were likely damaged or destroyed, according to an analysis of Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite data by Corey Scher of the CUNY Graduate Center and Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University. They say that accounts for 45,000 buildings.

Still, the damage in Khan Younis and other parts of the Strip’s south is considerably less than in the north of Gaza, where the researchers estimate 70% of buildings were likely damaged or destroyed.

Israel’s ground and aerial bombardment campaign, begun after the Hamas attack Oct 7, has wreaked unprecedented damage on the strip, levelling entire apartment buildings and leaving much of the territory in ruins, a moonscape from war.

Israel withdrew its last ground troops from Khan Younis on Sunday, marking the end of a key phase in its war against Hamas.

ISRAEL TO BUY 40,000 TENTS TO EVACUATE PALESTINIANS FROM RAFAH, ISRAELI OFFICIAL SAYS

An Israeli official confirms that Israel is purchasing 40,000 tents to prepare for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Israel says Rafah is Hamas’ last stronghold and is vowing to send ground troops into the city. But the international community, including the US, opposes the offensive, saying it would endanger Palestinian civilians.

More than 1 million Palestinians, over half of Gaza’s population, have fled to Rafah after being displaced by fighting elsewhere in the territory.

Israel has said it has a plan to evacuate civilians ahead of its offensive, and Israel’s Defence Ministry on Monday published a tender seeking a supplier of tents.

The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said the tents were part of the Rafah preparations.

GAZA HEALTH MINISTRY REPORTS 32 PEOPLE KILLED IN LAST 24 HOURS

The Health Ministry in Gaza on Monday said the bodies of 32 people killed in Israel’s bombardment have been brought to hospitals in the beleaguered territory in the past 24 hours. Hospitals also received 47 wounded people, it said.

The fresh fatalities brought the death toll in the strip to 33,207 since the war began on Oct 7, it said.

The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants, but said two thirds of the dead are children and women. The Israeli military says it has killed 12,000 militants, without providing evidence.

The ministry said 75,933 people have been wounded.

The ministry said many casualties remain under the rubble and first responders have been unable to retrieve them amid the relentless bombing.

PAKISTAN AND SAUDI ARABIA CALL ON ISRAEL TO HALT ITS MILITARY OPERATIONS IN GAZA

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have called on Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza and seek a peaceful solution to the conflict in line with UN resolutions.

The two countries made the demands in a joint statement on Monday after a meeting between Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Mecca.

The two sides called for international efforts “to halt Israeli military operations in Gaza, mitigate humanitarian impact and underscored the imperative for the international community to pressure Israel to cease hostilities, adhere to international law, and facilitate unhindered humanitarian aid access to Gaza,” according to the statement.

They also discussed the need for a peace process in accordance with UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative “aimed at finding a just and comprehensive solution, for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

ISRAELI MILITARY SAYS IT KILLED A HEZBOLLAH COMMANDER IN LEBANON

Israel’s military says it has killed a commander of Hezbollah’s secretive Radwan Force in southern Lebanon.

Ali Ahmad Hussein is one of the most senior militants killed since Israel and Hezbollah began exchanging fire at the start of the war in Gaza. His killing comes as regional tensions soar after an apparent Israeli attack last week on Iran’s consulate in Syria, threatening to spark a wider conflagration.

The Israeli military said two other Hezbollah militants were also killed in the strike early Monday.

Hezbollah announced the death of Ali Ahmad Hussein but did not give any details on the circumstances or his role within the group, in line with how they announce the deaths of their members.

The Israeli military said he was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the southern Lebanese village of Sultaniyeh. It said in a statement that Hussein was responsible for carrying out attacks on northern Israel.

Hezbollah militants and Israeli troops have clashed along the tense Lebanon-Israel border since Oct 8. Hezbollah says it would stop firing rockets once a cease-fire is reached in the Gaza Strip that would end the Israel-Hamas war.

Israeli officials have been demanding that the Radwan Force withdraw from the border area in order to allow tens of thousands of displaced Israelis to return home.

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