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Middle East crisis live: Palestinian president says Israel aims to drive Palestinians from their land amid evacuation plan

Palestinian president accuses Israel of trying to drive Palestinians from their land

The president of Palestine said in a statement that Israel’s military escalation in Rafah aims to push Palestinians from their land, Reuters reported.

The office of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday that it holds the Israel and US governments responsible for any effects of the expected invasion.

Abbas’ office also said that the expected military operation would threaten “peace and security in the region”.

The Palestinian presidency warned the UN Security Council about the impact’s of Israel’s actions as “[Israel] taking this step threatens security and peace in the region and the world. It crosses all red lines,” Abbas’ office said in a statement.

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Key events

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini also told reporters on Friday that police in southern Gaza are less willing to provide escorts for humanitarian aid trucks after several officers were killed in separate Israeli air strikes, France 24 reported.

Lazzarini said that police are increasingly unwilling to escort aid trucks that have been surrounded by civilians seeking food, as several officers reportedly died in Israeli air strikes.

Eight officers were reportedly killed by three Israeli airstrikes in the past four days, Lazzarini said.

“They’re saying enough is enough,” he told reporters.

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The chief of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said on Friday that any military operations by Israel in Rafah would bring “endless tragedy” to the already devastated city, France 24 reported.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini updated reporters on Friday about the impact that the expected invasion of Rafah would have on civilians: “Any large-scale military operation among this population can only lead to an additional layer of endless tragedy that’s unfolding,” he said.

Lazzarini added that there is a “growing anxiety and growing panic” in Rafah. “People have absolutely no idea where to go after Rafah,” Lazzarini said.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered at the Israel-Egypt border to block aid from getting into Gaza, NBC reported.

A small crowd with the Tzav 9 group gathered at the Nitzana Crossing on Friday in an attempt to block humanitarian aid from crossing into Gaza, where food, medical supplies, and other essentials remain in short supply.

The group previously demonstrated at the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel to block humanitarian aid from entering Gaza. In a statement translated by NBC, the group said that aid should not enter the territory until hostages taken by Hamas are released.

“For about weeks now, thousands of Israelis have been marching to the crossings from all over the country saying in a clear voice ‘No aid will pass until the last abductee returns,” the group said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Meta has removed Instagram and Facebook accounts run on behalf of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, following criticism over his support for Hamas after the group’s 7 October attack on Israel that sparked the months-long war still raging in the Gaza Strip, the company confirmed on Friday.

Meta, based in Menlo Park, California, offered no specifics about its reasoning. However, it said it removed the accounts “for repeatedly violating our Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy”.

“We do not allow organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence to have a presence on our platforms,” the policy states. That includes those designated as terrorists by the US government.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Undercover Israeli killings in West Bank hospital ‘may be war crimes’

The killing of three Palestinian men in a hospital in the occupied West Bank last month by Israeli commandos disguised as medical workers and Muslim women may amount to war crimes, a group of UN experts said.

The three militants were killed on 29 January in a joint undercover operation by the army, Shin Bet security service and border police in the Ibn Sina hospital in Jenin, one of the most volatile cities in the West Bank, Israel’s military said.

“Under international humanitarian law, killing a defenceless injured patient who is being treated in a hospital amounts to a war crime,” the UN experts said in a statement, referring to Basel Al-Ghazzawi, a patient being treated for injuries it said were caused by an Israeli air strike, Reuters reported.

“By disguising themselves as seemingly harmless, protected medical personnel and civilians, the Israeli forces also prima facie committed the war crime of perfidy, which is prohibited in all circumstances,” they added, calling for Israel to conduct an investigation.

The experts concerned are special rapporteurs engaged by the United Nations to examine a specific human rights issue.

Peter Beaumont

Peter Beaumont

Israel moved closer on Friday to a full-scale ground offensive against the southern Gaza city of Rafah, as the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netayahu, ordered military leaders to present a plan to evacuate civilians from the area.

Despite warnings from the US and senior UN officials, that an assault on Rafah – where some 1.3 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering in miserable conditions – would lead to a “bloodbath,” Israel appeared determined to push ahead with an assault.

“It is impossible to achieve the war goal of eliminating Hamas and leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah,” Netanyahu said in a statement, on Friday rejecting a warning from the Biden administration that it could not support an offensive against Rafah.

“On the other hand, it is clear that a massive operation in Rafah requires the evacuation of the civilian population from the combat zones.”

Norway is giving $26 million this year to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and could increase that sum if needed, it said on Friday, days after the agency warned it could cease all activity by the end of the month.

A string of countries including the United States, Germany and Britain paused their funding to the aid agency after accusations by Israel last month that some UNRWA staff were involved in Hamas’ attacks in southern Israel.

Norway, a top donor to UNRWA, is maintaining its funding, Reuters reported.

UNRWA said on 1 February that it could be forced to shut down its operations in the Middle East, not only in Gaza, by the end of February if its funding remains suspended.

Netanyahu says a ‘massive operation’ is needed in Rafah as he asks security officials to present an evacuation plan for the area

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has ordered the military to prepare a plan to evacuate the population of Rafah ahead of an expected Israeli invasion of the southern Gaza town, reports the Associated Press (AP).

Netanyahu made the announcement Friday after international criticism of Israel’s plan to invade the crowded town on Egypt’s border.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has ordered the military to prepare a plan to evacuate the population of Rafah. Photograph: Haitham Imad/EPA

Israel says Rafah is the last remaining Hamas stronghold and it needs to send in troops to complete its war plan against the Islamic militant group. But an estimated 1.5 million Palestinians have crammed into the town after fleeing fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

Netanyahu said a “massive operation” is needed in Rafah. He said he asked security officials to present a “double plan” that would include the evacuation of civilians and a military operation to “collapse” remaining Hamas militant units.

Earlier Friday, Israel bombed targets in Rafah. The attack took place hours after Biden administration officials and aid agencies warned Israel against expanding its Gaza ground offensive to the town where more than half of the territory’s 2.3 million people have sought refuge.

Airstrikes overnight and into Friday hit two residential buildings in Rafah, while two other sites were bombed in central Gaza, including one that damaged a kindergarten-turned-shelter for displaced Palestinians. Twenty-two people were killed, according to AP journalists who saw the bodies arriving at hospitals.

Israel’s stated intentions to expand its ground offensive to Rafah also prompted an unusual public backlash in Washington.

“We have yet to see any evidence of serious planning for such an operation,” Vedant Patel, a state department spokesperson, said on Thursday. Going ahead with such an offensive now, “with no planning and little thought in an area where there is sheltering of a million people would be a disaster.”

John Kirby, the national security council spokesperson, said an Israel ground offensive in Rafah is “not something we would support.”

The comments signaled intensifying US friction with Netanyahu, who pushed a message of “total victory” in the war this week, at a time when US secretary of state Antony Blinken was in Israel to press for a ceasefire deal in exchange for the release of dozens of Hamas-held hostages.

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Summary of the day so far

It has just gone 5pm in Gaza City and Tel Aviv, and 6pm in Damascus. Here’s a recap of the latest developments:

  • Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israel’s military to prepare for evacuating Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip ahead of an expected invasion on Friday.

  • Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warned of a “bloodbath” if Israeli operations expand to Rafah. “No war can be allowed in a gigantic refugee camp,” he said Aid workers said Israeli military advance into southern Gaza’s Rafah area could cause mass deaths among the more than one million Palestinians trapped there, with humanitarian aid in danger of collapse.

  • The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said that Israeli forces had raided the PRCS al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis. “The occupation (Israeli) forces stormed al-Amal hospital and started searching it. We’re finding it difficult to communicate with our crews inside the hospital,” a PRCS statement said on Friday. The Israeli military did not immediately respond when contacted by AFP about soldiers entering the hospital.

  • At least 22 people, including children and women, were killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight into Friday in the central area of the Gaza Strip and in the southern city of Rafah on the border with Egypt. The strikes hit a residential building in Rafah and a kindergarten-turned-shelter for the displaced in the central town of Zuwaida. The dead and wounded were taken to nearby hospitals, where the bodies were seen by journalists from AP.

  • Israeli ground forces are still focusing on the city of Khan Younis, just north of Rafah, but prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly warned this week that Rafah would be next, creating panic among hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Netanyahu’s words have also alarmed Egypt which has said that any ground operation in the Rafah area or mass displacement across the border would undermine its 40-year-old peace treaty with Israel. The mostly sealed Gaza-Egypt border is also the main entry point for humanitarian aid.

  • In a speech on Thursday, US president Joe Biden said Israel’s offensive on Gaza has been “over the top”. It is his sharpest criticism yet of Tel Aviv’s conduct during the war. As Joe Biden took questions on the special counsel’s report investigating his possession of classified documents, he said: “There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying.” During the press conference, Biden also mistakenly referred to the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, as the president of Mexico.

  • John Kirby, the US national security spokesperson warned Israel against conducting an offensive against Rafah, the last refuge of Palestinians fleeing the Israeli army’s assault on Gaza. Kirby said the US would not support an attack on the southern town. He added that the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, had expressed his concern to Israeli officials during his recent visit.

  • An international charity said that food is becoming so scarce in Gaza that people are resorting to eating grass. “Every single person in Gaza is now hungry, and people have just 1.5 to 2 litres of unsafe water per day to meet all their needs,” said ActionAid in a statement published on Friday that warned intensifying attacks in Rafah would have “disastrous consequences”.

  • Volker Türk, the UN high commissioner for human rights said on Thursday that widespread destruction by the IDF of civilian infrastructure in Gaza “amounts to a grave breach of the Fourth Genevea Convention, and a war crime”.

  • The UN children’s agency (Unicef) called on all parties to refrain from military escalation in Rafah, at the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, warning that there are more than 600,000 children in the area, some of whom have been displaced more than once since the war began four months ago

  • A doctor who left Gaza last week described Rafah as a “closed jail” with faecal matter running through streets so crowded that there is barely space for medics’ vehicles to pass. “If the same bombs used in Khan Younis were used in Rafah, it would be at least a doubling or tripling of the toll because it’s so densely populated,” said Dr Santosh Kumar.

  • “All our shelters are overflowing and cannot take any more people,” said Juliette Touma, spokesperson for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). Humanitarian agencies say they cannot move people to safer areas because Israeli troops are positioned to the north, and that the aid that is allowed into the enclave is not nearly enough to go around.

  • 11 Palestinians were arrested in Israeli army raids in the occupied West Bank overnight, reports Al Jazeera.

  • Israeli protesters gathered in front of the Nitzana crossing with the Egyptian border, blocking humanitarian aid from entering Gaza on Friday. There have been protests at multiple border crossings with Gaza in recent weeks, including at the Kerem Shalom crossing where Israeli protesters prevented trucks carrying humanitarian aid from entering Gaza.

  • The latest figures from the Gaza health ministry, which is run by Hamas, said 107 Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes and 142 were injured in the past 24 hours. The ministry does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

  • Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) says the war in Gaza has put more than half a million children out of school.“Every day of war deepens the scars, risking a lost generation vulnerable to exploitation,” Philippe Lazzarini said in a post on social media platform X. “Children are being robbed of childhood.”

  • Israeli forces have killed 340 health personnel, and arrested 99 since 7 October, said Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesperson for Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. At least 123 ambulances have been destroyed in the same period

  • Syrian air defences shot down two drones in the west of Damascus on Friday, state media reported, citing a military source as saying the drones came from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west of the capital. The Israeli military has said it does not comment on reports in foreign media.

  • For the first time since the beginning of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, congregational Friday prayers were held in Jabalia refugee camp, reported Al Jazeera journalist Anas al-Sharif.

  • Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian will travel to Lebanon and Syria to discuss various regional issues. According to the Syrian daily Al-Watan, when in Damascus Amirabdollahian would discuss current developments, including Israeli attacks on Syria and the ongoing war in Gaza. It added that he would then travel onwards to Qatar.

  • Several Arab foreign ministers discussed the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza at talks in Riyadh, Saudi state media reported on Friday, following a Middle East tour by US secretary of state Antony Blinken that stirred hopes for a long-awaited Gaza truce deal.

  • The United Arab Emirates foreign minister called for an intensification of efforts to prevent the expansion of conflict in the region during a meeting of Arab states in Riyadh. The meeting on Gaza included the foreign ministers of the host country, Saudi Arabia, along with Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, and the secretary general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Hussein al-Sheikh.

  • The US and Qatar are reportedly working on a joint plan to expel Hamas leaders from Doha, writes the Times of Israel citing the Saudi-funded news outlet Al-Arabiya. In its brief report on the news, the Times of Israel said Al-Arabiya had not provided further details and the claim had not been corroborated by any other sources.

  • Australian foreign minister Penny Wong reiterated concerns about UNRWA, noting that while it does critical work, there remain serious allegations against its staff.

  • The Ireland women’s basketball team chose not to shake hands with the Israel players at their EuroBasket 2025 qualifier in Riga on Thursday in response to an allegation by an Israeli player about antisemitism. Basketball Ireland called Dor Saar’s comments “inflammatory and wholly inaccurate”.

Netanyahu orders Israeli military to prepare Rafah evacuation ahead of expected invasion

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered Israel’s military to prepare for evacuating Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip ahead of an expected invasion, reports the Press Association.

More details to follow …

News agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) have more detail on reports that Israeli forces raided al-Amal hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis on Friday.

“The occupation (Israeli) forces stormed al-Amal hospital and started searching it. We’re finding it difficult to communicate with our crews inside the hospital,” a Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) statement said.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond when contacted by AFP about soldiers entering the hospital.

The al-Amal hospital, which is run by the PRCS, has been caught in fierce fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants, with the Red Crescent reporting “intense artillery shelling and heavy gunfire” continuing around the hospital on Thursday.

The medical organisation has in recent days made repeated pleas for supplies and protection, reporting severe shortages of oxygen, medicines and fuel to power the hospital.

Earlier this week, the PRCS said about 8,000 people who had sought shelter at al-Amal hospital and its nearby Khan Younis headquarters were evacuated. A video published by the organisation showed a medic wheeling an elderly woman through a damaged street on a hospital bed.

About 40 displaced people, 80 patients and 100 staff remained after the evacuation, the PRCS said Monday.

Hospitals are granted special protection under the laws of war, but they have been repeatedly hit in Gaza over the past four months.

There are no fully functioning hospitals left in the Palestinian territory, the UN said on Wednesday, while just over a third of them are working at limited capacity. Health facilities have been overwhelmed by the scale of casualties, with more than 67,000 people injured during the war in Gaza.

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340 health personnel killed in Gaza since 7 October, says health ministry

Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesperson for Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said that Israeli forces have killed 340 health personnel and arrested 99 since 7 October.

At least 123 ambulances have been destroyed in the same period, Al Jazeera reports.

Aid groups warn of Rafah ‘bloodbath’ if Israel advances

Any Israeli military advance into southern Gaza’s Rafah area could cause mass deaths among the more than one million Palestinians trapped there, with humanitarian aid in danger of collapse, aid workers said on Friday reports Reuters.

Israel has threatened to advance from Khan Younis, Gaza’s main southern city, to Rafah, where the population has increased five-fold as people have fled bombardment, often under evacuation orders, since Israel began its assault on Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement.

“No war can be allowed in a gigantic refugee camp,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warning of a “bloodbath” if Israeli operations expand there.

“Expanded hostilities in Rafah could collapse the humanitarian response,” NRC added in a statement.

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, take shelter in a tent camp in Rafah. Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

About 1.5 million people are now jammed into overcrowded shelters or on the street in a patch of land hemmed in by Egyptian and Israeli border fences and the Mediterranean Sea as well as Israeli forces.

According to Reuters, a doctor who left Gaza last week described Rafah as a “closed jail” with faecal matter running through streets so crowded that there is barely space for medics’ vehicles to pass. “If the same bombs used in Khan Younis were used in Rafah, it would be at least a doubling or tripling of the toll because it’s so densely populated,” said Dr Santosh Kumar.

Humanitarian agencies say they cannot move people to safer areas because Israeli troops are positioned to the north, and that the aid that is allowed into the enclave is not nearly enough to go around.

“All our shelters are overflowing and cannot take any more people,” said Juliette Touma, spokesperson for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

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PRCS say Israeli forces are raiding al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) posted on X within the last hour saying that occupation forces were raiding the PRCS al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis.

The national humanitarian organisation did not provide any further details. We will post an update as soon as more information comes in.



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