DOHA/JERUSALEM (TIP): Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the military on February 9 to draw up a dual plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians from the crowded southern Gazan city of Rafah and defeat the last Hamas fighters there. His office announced the move as pressure mounted on Israel over its threat to launch a ground assault on Rafah, the last refuge for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are trapped in the city after fleeing fighting elsewhere. US President Joe Biden said on Thursday Israel’s response to the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants was “over the top” and Washington said it would not support any military operation launched in Rafah without due consideration for civilians. Aid groups said there would be a high Palestinian death toll if Israeli forces stormed Rafah, and warned of the growing humanitarian crisis in the city, on the border with Egypt. “It is impossible to achieve the goal of the war without eliminating Hamas. It is clear that intense activity in Rafah requires that civilians evacuate the areas of combat,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement. — Reuters

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