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Israel working on preparations for Rafah invasion

JERUSALEM — Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with top officials late Monday to work on preparations for the invasion of Rafah, his office said. The international community, including the United States, have voice strong objections to the planned offensive.

Gallant’s office said Monday’s meeting included plans for evacuating civilians and expanding deliveries of food and medical equipment to Gaza.

Israel says it plans to attack Rafah eventually to root out Hamas terrorists.

Israel, which has reduced the number of its troops across Gaza, has repeatedly rejected calls to let Palestinians back to the north of the territory, saying Hamas terrorists continue to operate there. The military says it has loosened the terrorists’ control over the north, but it is still carrying out airstrikes and raids against what it says are reorganizing terrorists. Last month, Israeli troops raided Gaza’s main hospital, Shifa, in two weeks of fighting that left the facility in ruins.

Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Palestinians should stay in southern Gaza because the north is a “dangerous combat zone.”

People appeared to be heeding the new warning.

The return of the population to northern Gaza has been a key sticking point between Israel and Hamas in negotiations underway for a cease-fire deal that would bring the release of hostages taken by Hamas terrorists in the Oct. 7 attack.

Israel wants to try to delay the return to prevent terrorists from regrouping in the north, while Hamas says it wants a free flow of returnees, a full withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Gaza and an end to the war.

“The permanent cease-fire is the only guarantee to protect our people and stop the flow of blood and massacres,” Izzat al-Risheq, a top Hamas official, said in a statement.

The U.N. food agency on Monday said it managed to deliver fuel and wheat flour to a bakery in Gaza City in the north for the first time since the war started.

Israel has opened a new crossing for aid trucks into the north as it ramps up aid deliveries to Gaza. However, the United Nations says the surge of aid is not being felt in Gaza because of persistent distribution difficulties.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said four soldiers were wounded by an explosion along the northern border with Lebanon.

The military said that the source of the explosion, which occurred overnight, was still unclear. It left one soldier severely wounded, two moderately wounded, and one with light injuries.

The Iran-backed Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah said Monday that mines they set up in southern Lebanon near the border detonated after Israeli ground troops encroached on Lebanese territory, incurring casualties.

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