Israel’s defense minister has signaled that ground forces will advance toward the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, which has become a refuge for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians pushed from their homes by nearly 13 weeks of war.
Rafah, which has also been a gateway for humanitarian aid, is a sprawl of tents and makeshift shelters crammed against the border with Egypt. About half of Gaza’s 2.2 million residents have piled into and around the city, where about 200,000 people lived before the war, the United Nations said on Friday.
The city is one of the last in southern Gaza that Israeli ground forces, which have been fighting house-to-house battles in nearby Khan Younis, have not yet reached.
“We are completing the mission in Khan Younis and we will reach Rafah, as well, and eliminate every terrorist there who threatens to harm us,” the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said during a visit to troops in Khan Younis, according to footage distributed by his office late Thursday.