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‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 119: Israel Pushes Forward Into Rafah

Above photo: Displaced Palestinians flee past Israeli tanks following military orders to leave Khan Younis and go toward Rafah near the Egyptian Border in the Southern Gaza Strip, January 26, 2024. Haitham Imad/EFE via Zuma Press APA Images.

Leaving Palestinians With Nowhere Left To Flee.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declares the Israeli ground invasion will continue into Rafah, where 1.9 million civilians are currently sheltering. One Palestinian tells Reuters, “If the tanks storm in, it will be a massacre like never before.”


  • 27,131+ killed* and at least 66,287 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 112 Palestinians have been killed, and 148 injured in the past 24 hours
  • 387+ Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,139.
  • 558 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 3,221 injured.**

*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health on February 2. Some rights groups put the death toll number at more than 33,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

** This figure is released by the Israeli military.

Key Developments

  • Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant: “Victory will not be complete until the military expands into Rafah.”
  • There are 1.9 Palestinians currently sheltering in Rafah, which is the last place in the Gaza Strip that has been declared a “safe zone.” Palestinians fear a massacre, if the Israeli army encroaches.
  • UNICEF: 1 million children in Gaza require mental health support
  • UN: Israel’s assault on Gaza has become the deadliest conflict for journalists in history
  • Palestinian Prisoners Society: 25 Palestinians detained last night in a series of raids across the West Bank. The number of Palestinians detained since October 7 is now 6,485
  • According to a new poll, half of U.S. adults say that Israel has gone too far in its war with Gaza.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden signs Executive Order that would impose sanctions on Israeli settlers who commit acts of violence that undermine security in the West Bank.
  • Arab-Americans protest Joe Biden in Michigan, launch #AbandonBiden campaign on social media to draw attention to the way that the U.S. President let down the Arab-American community with his actions in Gaza
  • OCHA: 372 Palestinians have been killed, including 94 children in conflict-related violence (including extremist settler attacks) across the Occupied West Bank.
  • Belgium has summoned its ambassador after their development agency’s office was destroyed in Gaza.

Displaced Palestinians Trapped As Israeli Defense Minister Vows To Move Into Rafah

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has officially declared that “victory will not be complete until the military expands into Rafah,” the southern-most enclave of the Gaza Strip that is currently sheltering around 1.9 million Palestinians.

“The Khan Younis Brigade of the Hamas organization is disbanded, we will complete the mission there and continue to Rafah,” he wrote in a post on the social media platform X.

“The great pressure that the forces exert on Hamas targets brings us closer to the return of abductees more than anything else. We will continue to the end, there is no other way.”

While most Palestinians would much prefer to go home than to evacuate the Gaza Strip completely, even those who wish to leave Gaza cannot do so easily; the Egyptian government has effectively closed the border, citing concerns that opening it could undermine a future Palestinian state.

As a result, Palestinians who do wish to leave can only do so through bribing Egyptian “fixers” with connections to the intelligence apparatus, who are currently charging desperate Palestinians as much as $10,000 per head as a “coordination fee” for anyone trying to leave the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing. Many Palestinians—including Palestinian-Americans who are trying to help their families in the absence of any assistance from the Biden administration—are turning to GoFundMe to raise money to cover the cost of crossing the border.

“People who are on the list in Gaza are, unfortunately, only the rich,” Fatima, a refugee from Gaza, whose family raised $20,000 on GoFundMe to get her mother and two sisters out of Gaza, told The Daily Beast.

For most ordinary Palestinians, this is unfeasible—and they’re left fearing what will happen if Israeli tanks come, and there is nowhere to turn.

“Most of Gaza’s population is in Rafah,” Emad, a 55-year-old businessman told Reuters News Agency. “If the tanks storm in, it will be a massacre like never before during this war.”

It seems the only hope to stop Israeli tanks from storming Rafah would be a ceasefire—a proposed draft of which is still being considered by Hamas following meetings in Cairo with Egyptian and Qatari mediators this week. The current proposal would involve a 40 day cessation of hostilities, allowing humanitarian aid to come into the enclave, people to return to their homes, and the release of all remaining Israeli civilian hostages.

“We have received the proposal that was put together in Paris but we haven’t yet given a response to any of the parties,” Taher Al-Nono, media advisor to Hamas told Reuters.

“We can’t say that the current stage of negotiation is zero and at the same time we can’t say that we have reached an agreement.”

However, there is widespread disagreement about what will follow. Israel has said that Hamas must be eradicated before it pulls its troops out of Gaza or releases any Palestinian detainees, but Hamas refuses to disband or sign any deal until the Israeli military withdraws. Many fear that this could result in an extended stalemate that leads to more violence.

Meanwhile, as cold weather surges, Gaza’s humanitarian aid crisis continues, as rainwater floods tents in Rafah, and food, medical supplies, and other essential humanitarian aid are still held up at the border. Children are among those who are queuing in long lines for food, and UNICEF has warned that the recent decision of the U.S. and several other countries to withdraw funding from UNWRA could make this even worse.

According to UNICEF, 17,000 children have been separated from their families during the conflict, and nearly all of the children in the enclave require mental health support.

“They present symptoms like extremely high levels of persistent anxiety, loss of appetite,” said UNICEF Chief of Communications Jonathan Crickx.

“They can’t sleep, they have emotional outbursts or they panic every time they hear a bombing.”

Raids Across The West Bank, U.S. Sanctions On Settlers, Anger Among Arab-Americans.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces continue to conduct raids across the West Bank, arresting 25 people just last night, bringing the total number of Palestinians who have been detained since October 7 up to 6,485 individuals.

Israeli settlers torched a car and attacked several homes in Nablus last night, just a few hours after U.S. President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order that imposed sanctions on four Israeli settlers deemed to have engaged in violent attacks that threaten to “undermine security” in the West Bank.

But this is just a fraction of those who have committed acts of violence. Since October 7, OCHA has recorded 477 Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, resulting in 48 Palestinian casualties.

While progressive Jewish groups in the United States have welcomed the announcement, some analysts—like Birzeit University Assistant Professor Basil Faraj claim that it is “too little too late,” and is an empty gesture to appease Palestinian and Arab-American communities.

Nevertheless, President Biden’s approval ratings among Arab-Americans are at an all-time low as Palestinian and other Arab-Americans rallied in Michigan, a swing state that many argue is essential to Biden’s campaign.

“There is nothing that will make me vote for a genocidal president ever,” a protestor who identified as Hawraa told Al Jazeera. “Not only me, but everybody else. My whole Arab community will never vote for this man.” Some voters have taken to social media with an #AbandonBiden campaign, that they hope will catch on in battleground states.

Several other Palestinian-American community leaders recently declined a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

“Where do I start trying to meet with somebody who I feel is primarily responsible for the killing of all my family, and who has had four months to actually prevent my family from being killed?” Tariq Haddad, a cardiologist from Virginia who has lost 90 family members in the Israeli assault on Gaza told the Huffington Post.

Regional Chaos

The U.S. military is continuing to strike Ansar Allah drones in Yemen and planning retaliatory strikes against Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria after three U.S. soldiers were killed by an Iranian drone in Jordan earlier this year. It is the first instance of U.S. military personnel who have been killed since October 7, and many fear that this could escalate into regional warfare as more and more countries get involved.

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