ANKARA: Egypt has reportedly warned Hamas that Israel will move with a ground invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza within two weeks without a prisoner swap agreement.
The Wall Street Journal said Cairo has urged the Palestinian group to reach an agreement with Tel Aviv or Israel ‘will proceed with a ground invasion of Rafah.’
The Israeli army plans to launch a ground offensive in Rafah, home to more than 1 million residents seeking refuge from war, to defeat what Tel Aviv calls the remaining “Hamas battalions.” The planned offensive has triggered concerns of a humanitarian catastrophe in the city.
There was no immediate comment from Egypt or Hamas on the report.
Hamas is believed to be holding more than 130 Israeli hostages following its Oct. 7 cross-border attack.
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a Hamas proposal for a Gaza cease-fire and hostage-prisoner exchange and vowed to continue the war until a ‘crushing victory’ over the Palestinian group.
Palestinians have sought ref
uge in Rafah as Israel pounded the rest of the enclave since Oct. 7. The ensuing Israeli bombardment has killed more than 28,000 victims and caused mass destruction and shortages of necessities.
The planned offensive in Rafah has reportedly strained ties between Egypt and Israel amid Egyptian fears of an exodus of Palestinians into its territories.
The Israeli war on Gaza has 85% of the territory’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure was damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.
In late 2023, South Africa filed a case at the International Court of Justice, accusing Israel of failing to uphold its commitments under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
The UN court, in its interim ruling in January, ruled that South Africa’s claims are plausible. It ordered provisional measures for Israel’s government to desist from genocidal acts, and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in G