Israeli army tells Palestinians to temporarily evacuate parts of Rafah ahead of an expected assault

The Israeli army on Monday ordered tens of thousands of people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to begin evacuating, signalling that a long-promised ground invasion could be imminent.

The announcement complicated last-ditch efforts by international mediators, including the director of the CIA, to broker a cease-fire. Hamas and Qatar, a key mediator, have warned that an invasion of Rafah could derail the talks.

Israel has described Rafah as the last significant Hamas stronghold after seven months of war, and its leaders have repeatedly said they need to carry out a ground invasion to defeat the Islamic militant group.

Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani, an army spokesman, said some 100,000 people were being ordered to move to a nearby Israel-declared humanitarian zone called Muwasi. He said Israel was preparing a “limited scope operation” and would not say whether this was the beginning of a broader invasion of the city. But last October, Israel did not formally announce the launch of a ground invasion that continues to this day.

The move comes a day after Hamas militants carried out a deadly rocket attack from the area that killed three Israeli soldiers.

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