Israel orders more evacuations in Rafah, drawing international backlash

Israeli forces have issued fresh evacuation orders in Rafah as they prepare to expand their attacks on the southern Gaza city. The move has sparked a backlash from international groups.

The Israeli military ordered people in central Rafah and other areas to evacuate on Saturday. It had earlier issued a notice calling on civilians in eastern Rafah to leave the city, where more than one million individuals are sheltering.

The military said about 300,000 people had fled so far.

The head of the United Nations refugee agency for Palestinians reacted sharply to the latest move.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini wrote in a social media post that since the war began, people in the Gaza Strip have desperately sought safety, but they never found it. He added that there is no safe place in Gaza.

European Council President Charles Michel said on social media, "Evacuation orders for civilians trapped in Rafah to unsafe zones are unacceptable."

He called on Israel to respect international humanitarian law and urged the country not to carry out a ground operation in Rafah.

Gaza health authorities announced on Saturday that 34,971 people have been killed in the enclave so far since the Israel-Hamas conflict began.