Thousands are fleeing Rafah, Wednesday, on the 76th anniversary of the Nakba, ahead of an expected Israeli offensive.

Tens of thousands of civilians fled the southern Gaza city of Rafah ahead of a feared Israeli ground offensive, as Palestinians on Wednesday mark the 76th anniversary of their “Nakba” or “catastrophe” of 1948, which saw the establishment of the state of Israel.

During the war that accompanied Israel’s creation, around 760,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes and many took refuge in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Wednesday’s commemoration of the “Nakba” comes as multiple battles between Israeli troops and Hamas militants across the Gaza Strip force waves of Palestinian mass displacement.

Nearly 450,000 Palestinians have been displaced from Rafah since May 6, and around 100,000 from northern Gaza, UN agencies said.

That means around a quarter of Gaza’s population of 2.4 million people have been displaced again in about one week.

The war and siege have triggered a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with the UN repeatedly lamenting aid restrictions as famine stalks the north.

Since Israeli troops moved into eastern Rafah, the aid crossing point from Egypt has remained closed and the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing lacks “safe and logistically viable access,” a UN report said late Monday.

‘No clarity on how to stop war’

Battles and heavy Israeli bombardments have been reported around Rafah as well as in Gaza City and Jabalia refugee camp in the north, and Nuseirat camp in the center.

Despite threatening to withhold some arms over concerns of a Rafah assault, US President Joe Biden’s administration informed Congress on Tuesday of a $1 billion weapons package for Israel, official sources told AFP.

The European Union on Wednesday urged Israel to end its military operation in Gaza’s Rafah “immediately”, warning that failure to do so would undermine ties with the bloc.

Momentum had been building in truce negotiations, mediator Qatar’s prime minister said on Tuesday, but “what happened with Rafah has set us backward”.

Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that “right now we are on a status of almost a stalemate”.

On the eve of the “Nakba” commemoration, thousands of people took part in an annual march that took them through the ruins of villages that Palestinians were expelled from during the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation.

With AFP