Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli military on Feb. 9 to draw up plans for the "evacuation" of Palestinians from Rafah in southern Gaza as it prepares to launch a full-scale assault on the area. Where people would be evacuated to—and how—remains unclear. Over one million Palestinians forcibly displaced by Israel's military campaign—now entering its fifth month—have been pushed into Rafah. Aid groups warn that there is nowhere left for people to flee to. People in Rafah are already experiencing disease and starvation, with aid operations struggling to meet even basic needs. A ground invasion would "exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said.
The Iraqi government condemned air-strikes by the US military on its territory as "hostile acts" after the Pentagon said it hit sites used by Iran-backed forces. The strikes killed one member of the Iraqi security forces and wounded 18 people, including civilians, Baghdad said Dec. 26, calling the raids an "unacceptable attack on Iraqi sovereignty." Washington said the strikes targeted three sites used by Kataib Hezbollah, part of the network of Shi'ite militias in Iraq, in retaliation for a drone attack the day before on Erbil airbase that wounded three US service members, one of them critically,. (Al Jazeera)
The US District Court for the Southern District of New York unsealed an indictment Dec. 20 filed against Hezbollah operative Samuel Salman El Reda for his alleged involvement in a bomb attack on a Jewish community center in Argentina three decades ago. The 20-page indictment concerns the 1994 bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and caused hundreds of injuries. The US government claims El Reda collaborated with the Hezbollah-linked Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO) in the attack.
In the two months since Israel began bombarding and laying total siege to Gaza, around 85% of the 2.3 million people who live in the coastal enclave have been displaced from their homes, according to the UN. More than 17,000 people have been killed—around 70% of them women and children—and many others are missing and presumed to be trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings, according to the Gaza Health Ministry; the enclave's healthcare system is barely functional; and a rapid food security assessment found that nearly everyone now goes to bed hungry, and most have gone entire days without food. An Israeli ground invasion, which began Oct. 27 and is expanding into southern Gaza, is squeezing hundreds of thousands of displaced into smaller and smaller areas. Humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza have essentially ground to a halt, and UN officials have repeatedly warned that nowhere is safe. Amid these extreme conditions, "civil order is breaking down," the Gaza director of the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, warned, while Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA's commissioner-general, said: "We are reaching the point of no return."
A member of the Israeli cabinet broached a nuclear strike on the Gaza Strip Nov. 5, making outraged headlines in the Arab world. Jerusalem Affairs & Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party said in a radio interview that there are "no non-combatants in Gaza," and using a nuclear weapon on the Palestinian enclave is "one of the possibilities." The comment was immediately repudiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who issued a statement saying that Eliyahu has been suspended from cabinet meetings "until further notice." Eliyahu is not a member of the special "war cabinet" formed for the Gaza campaign, Netanyahu's office emphasized, adding: "Eliyahu's statements are not based in reality. Israel and the IDF are operating in accordance with the highest standards of international law to avoid harming innocents. We will continue to do so until our victory." (The Guardian, Haaretz, Politico)
As Israel intensifies air-strikes in the Gaza Strip, a northern front appears to be opening in the war. Escalating cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces have led to the displacement of over 4,200 people in south Lebanon, and authorities have designated some 100 kilometers of the border with Israel a military zone. Inhabitants pf the border region have retreated deeper into Lebanese territory to avoid entanglement in the ongoing skirmishes. In the southern port city of Tyre, authorities have converted three school facilities into makeshift refuges for the displaced. (Jurist)
On Oct. 13, Israel ordered 1.1 million people living in the north of the Gaza Strip to evacuate to the south of the enclave within 24 hours, ahead of an expected ground invasion. The order came after gunmen from Hamas, the political and militant group that governs Gaza, carried out an unprecedented incursion into Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,300 people, including many civilians, and taking between 100 and 150 hostages. The UN called on Israel to rescind its evacuation order, with a spokesperson saying it is "impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences."
Israel's right-wing nationalist government announced new plans June 18 to approve the construction of thousands of new buildings in the occupied West Bank, despite pressure from both the US and EU to halt settlement expansion. Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who has just been granted authority over approval of West Bank settlement construction in a cabinet decision, tweeted in explicitly annexationist language: "The construction boom in Judea and Samaria and all over our country continues."