Israel purchases 40,000 tents for Rafah evacuation, says Israeli media

Wednesday, Apr 10, 2024

JERUSALEM: The Israeli defence ministry is purchasing 40,000 tents ahead of an evacuation of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which Israel has said it plans to assault to destroy remaining battalions of the Hamas group, Israeli media reported on Tuesday.

There was no immediate confirmation from the defence ministry of the purchase, which the Jerusalem Post newspaper, one of a number that reported the news, said was leaked without a formal announcement.

News of the planned purchase of the tents, each of which can shelter 12 people, was one of the first signs of concrete preparations for an evacuation of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians have been sheltering.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly flagged plans to invade Rafah, the last remaining city in Gaza that has not faced a major ground assault.

The military says four Hamas battalions remain in Rafah as well as an unknown number of senior commanders of the Islamist movement. In the past, Israel has said Hamas battalions are of about 1,000 fighters each.

Prior to any assault, the military has said it will evacuate the civilian population to so-called “humanitarian islands” in central Gaza, where food, water and medical facilities will be available. The plans to assault Rafah have drawn widespread condemnation and even Israel’s closest ally the United States has warned Netanyahu that the country would face global isolation if it goes ahead.

The ground and air assault has killed more than 33,000 people, according to Gaza health authorities, most of them civilians, and drawn growing calls worldwide for a ceasefire.

Israel says it has killed some 10,000 Hamas fighters and largely destroyed most of the movement’s organised fighting formations but needs to take Rafah to reach its goal of dismantling the group’s military and governing structures and bring the hostages back.

Meanwhile, Hamas has said that an Israeli proposal on a ceasefire in Gaza meets none of the demands of Palestinian factions, but said it would study the offer further and deliver its response to mediators. The proposal was delivered to the Palestinian Islamist movement by Egyptian and Qatari mediators at talks in Cairo that aim to find a way out of the devastating war in Gaza, now in its seventh month. Israeli forces meanwhile have stepped-up bombardments on Deir Al-Balah and Rafah in central and southern Gaza respectively, two areas they have not so far invaded, residents said. The talks in Cairo, also attended by the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency William Burns, have so far failed reach a breakthrough towards pausing the war.