Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
IDF tanks and soldiers at a staging area near the Israeli-Gaza border, October 24, 2023.

The Israel Defense Forces are preparing to evacuate Gaza civilians to safer areas in the southern part of the enclave in advance of a looming invasion of the city of Rafah, which straddles Gaza’s border with Egypt.

At least four battalions of Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization remain unscathed and active in the city, and it is believed Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and his No. 2, Mohammed Deif, are both holed up there along with many of the Israeli hostages who remain their captives.


Approximately two-thirds of Gaza civilians are also sheltering in the city, having moved south at the encouragement of the IDF which provided safe zones for their transit from the combat areas in the north.

During his Passover message to the nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alluded to the approaching invasion, saying, “In the coming days, we will increase the military and diplomatic pressure on Hamas because it’s the only way to release our hostages and achieve our victory.”

The Israel Air Force has begun conducting strikes in the city in preparation for the ground operation, while enacting plans to move civilians to safe zones that will have food, water, shelter and medical services. The plans include tents, food distribution centers and field hospitals for those who arrive, Egyptian officials told The Wall Street Journal.

In mid-April, the IDF called up two reserve units in preparation for the operation.

“In accordance with the situational assessment, the IDF is calling up approximately two reserve brigades for operational activities on the Gazan front,” the IDF said in a brief statement at the time.

On Wednesday, the IDF announced the mobilization of two reserve brigades which had up to this point been operating along Israel’s northern border, for “defensive and tactical missions in the Gaza Strip.”

The forces “have prepared in recent weeks for operations in the Gaza Strip under the command of the 99th Division,” the IDF said.

“As part of the readiness for operations in the Strip, the 2nd Reserve Brigade of the 146th Division and the 679th Reserve Brigade of the 210th Division have increased their readiness through a series of trainings in the northern and southern sectors.”

Once the operation is launched, the fighting is expected to last at least six weeks after an evacuation that is expected to take up to three weeks, Egyptian officials said, adding the moves are to be coordinated with the US, Egypt and Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.