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Hamas warns of Israel’s imminent ‘massacre’ in hemmed-in Rafah

A Palestinian child gestures as he moves through the rubble of a building destroyed by Israeli regime forces bombardment in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (File photo by AFP)

The Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas has warned of an imminent "massacre" by the Israeli regime forces in Rafah, as more than half of Gaza’s population cramming into the border city brace for a full-blown invasion.

Hamas on Saturday warned that there could be many more dead and injured Gazans if the Israeli forces attacked the far south city of Rafah, bordering Egypt.

Hamas insisted that any violent action by the Israeli forces would have catastrophic repercussions that “may lead to tens of thousands of martyrs and injured if Rafah … is invaded”.

The Palestinian resistance group that controls the Gaza Strip said it would hold “the American administration, international community, and the Israeli occupation” responsible if Israelis invaded the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip.

Half of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in and around Rafah. Many of these displaced Gazan refugees sleep outside in tents and makeshift camps, lacking food, water, and sanitation.

International organizations have sounded the alarm over an Israeli ground invasion, with Doctors Without Borders saying in a statement, "Israel's declared ground offensive on Rafah would be catastrophic and must not proceed. There is no place that is safe in Gaza and no way for people to leave."

On Friday, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, said a major Israeli offensive in Rafah “can only lead to an additional layer of endless tragedy”.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the Zionist forces to make plans for “evacuating” Rafah and “destroying” Hamas fighters in the city.

Witnesses reported new strikes on Rafah early on Saturday, raising fears of a looming Israeli ground invasion.

Israeli forces killed more than two dozen Palestinians in strikes on Rafah that were launched immediately after Netanyahu reported that an imminent invasion of the city in southern Gaza was being planned.

Three Israeli air raids on residential areas in Rafah killed at least 31 people overnight into Saturday, according to a health official and The Associated Press journalists who saw the bodies arriving at hospitals.

The US and other countries, as well as international organizations, have warned Israel that invading Rafah would lead to “disaster”, while the United Nations has continued to express concern over devastating consequences for civilians.

“Where are they supposed to go? How are they supposed to stay safe?” asked the UN’s humanitarian affairs and relief chief Martin Griffiths on Saturday.

Israel’s invasion of Gaza has killed at least at least 28,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, with thousands more missing, likely remaining under rubble.

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