Terrified Gazans Await an Israeli Advance in the City They Fled To

Petrified Gazans in the cramped southern border city of Rafah scrambled to evade bombardment on Saturday as they prepared to flee an expected Israeli ground offensive, dreading the prospect of again searching for safety in a place with few, if any, options to escape the war.

Israeli officials have declared that the next phase in their effort to destroy Hamas will be in Rafah, and on Friday, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that “any forceful action in Rafah would require the evacuation of the civilian population from combat zones.”

The Israeli government has not specified where the civilians would be expected to go. Rafah sits along the border with Egypt, which has so far refused to take in Palestinian refugees, fearful over its own security and worried that the displacement could become permanent and undermine Palestinian aspirations for statehood.

On Saturday, Germany, Britain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia joined an international chorus condemning Israel’s stated intention of expanding its ground invasion into the city. Aid groups, the secretary general of the United Nations and officials from the Biden administration have warned that an Israeli attack on Rafah would be disastrous.

“An offensive by the Israeli army on Rafah would be a humanitarian catastrophe,” Annalena Baerbock, the foreign minister of Germany, said in a statement on social media. “The people in #Gaza cannot disappear into thin air.”

Britain’s foreign secretary, David Cameron, said on social media that he was “deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah.”

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