Hamas has warned of the severe consequences of a potential Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, the last refuge for Palestinians displaced by the war in Gaza. The Islamic extremist movement stated that tens of thousands of people could be killed or injured in the city. Witnesses reported bombings in the surrounding areas of Rafah, and according to reports, 1.3 million Palestinians live there, more than half of the total population of Gaza and mostly refugees who fled Israeli operations elsewhere in the Strip.
The conflict began when Islamist militants killed more than 1,160 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped about 250 in southern Israel. In response, Israel vowed to “annihilate” Hamas and launched a relentless campaign of bombing and ground operations against Gaza, resulting in the death of mainly women, children, and adolescents. On the diplomatic front, a “new cycle of negotiations” began in Cairo with the aim of obtaining greater access to humanitarian aid to Gaza and an exchange of hostages held by Hamas by Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The United States has warned that any such move could result in a humanitarian catastrophe if civilians are forced to evacuate without a safe place to go.
The war also exacerbated tensions between Israel and Iranian-backed groups operating from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. These groups have launched attacks on behalf of Hamas, prompting retaliation from Israel and its allies. This situation has led to fears that any military intervention could escalate into a wider conflict involving multiple countries. Meanwhile, many Palestinians remain displaced and continue to suffer from violence as they try to rebuild their lives after years of conflict.