Israeli Defence Minister Discusses Next Steps In Rafah


(MENAFN- IANS) Tel Aviv, April 16 (IANS/DPA) Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has discussed further action in Rafah with representatives of his ministry and the Israeli COGAT authority which oversees contacts with the Palestinians and aid.

They focused on the evacuation of civilians from Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip and the expansion of food and medicine deliveries, according to the government press office.

More than a million people have fled to Rafah from attacks throughout the densely populated strip and there are growing concerns that Israel's planned offensive in Rafah could lead to mass civilian casualties.

Before Iran unleashed its attack on Israel last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had set a date for an offensive in Rafah, though Gallant contradicted this shortly afterwards.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with the Emir of Qatar and called for increased cooperation between Muslim countries in view of the war in Gaza, his office said.

These countries must increase their efforts to stop Israel's "brutal attacks" in the Gaza Strip and to hold the country accountable for "crimes against humanity," according to a statement from the presidential office.

Erdogan told Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani it was crucial to exert a restraining influence on Israel and to act with common sense in order to prevent the spread of tensions in the region.

Relations between Israel and Turkey massively deteriorated after the start of the Gaza war following the massacre by the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas in Israel in October. Erdogan has harshly criticized Israel's military action in Gaza, accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of committing a "massacre," charges Israel rejects.

The Turkish government maintains links with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. Unlike some European countries and the US, Turkey does not classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.

In the attack by Hamas and other Palestinian militants on the Israeli border area on October 7, 2023, more than 1,200 people were killed and around 200 people were abducted to the Gaza Strip.

More than 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the outbreak of war on October 7, 2023, according to health officials in the Hamas-led region.

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IANS

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