[Reporter connection]

  On February 24, the Israeli army intensively bombed the southern Gaza Strip cities of Rafah and Khan Younis, killing at least 15 people.

Previously, in the early morning of February 22, many areas of Rafah were also intensively bombed by the Israeli army. The bombing targets included residences and mosques, causing dozens of casualties.

The situation in Gaza has become more tense.

  As the last "refuge" for Gazans, Rafah is now in danger.

Israel continues to maintain a tough stance and the Rafah offensive is imminent. The United States and European countries are generally worried that the situation is out of control and have changed their attitudes and called for a ceasefire.

Rafah, as the last "escape route" for all parties, may become a turning point in this round of Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Gazans’ “last resort”

  Rafah is located at the southernmost tip of the Gaza Strip, with a 14-kilometer narrow border with Egypt. The Rafah crossing point is the only crossing port between Gaza and Egypt.

Compared with other areas in Gaza, Rafah has been relatively less affected by this round of conflicts and is considered the only remaining "safe place" in the Gaza Strip.

  Before the conflict broke out, Rafah, which covers an area of ​​only 64 square kilometers, had a population of nearly 300,000.

After the Israeli army entered Gaza, residents in the northern areas were asked to evacuate southward, and Rafah became the "last resort" for Gazans.

According to relevant data, the total population of the Gaza Strip reaches more than 2.3 million, and currently nearly 1.4 million Palestinians have taken refuge in Rafah, making Rafah the most densely populated area in the Gaza Strip.

Satellite images from international human rights organizations show a sharp increase in the number of tents in Rafah and nearby areas.

  With power outages, disease spread, food shortages, and population expansion, local living conditions continue to deteriorate, and everyone is on the verge of collapse.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the United States and the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of the University of London in the United Kingdom estimate that if the conflict escalates, 85,000 Gazans will die from injuries or diseases within six months; if the intensity of the conflict and the level of humanitarian assistance remain as they are , but an infectious disease breaks out, about 66,700 people will die; even in the most optimistic scenario, that is, the conflict ends immediately and there is no outbreak, about 6,500 people will still die.

Western attitudes are changing

  Since the current round of Palestinian-Israeli conflict broke out in October last year, Israel's Western allies have always avoided talking about the word "ceasefire."

In their view, the ceasefire is tantamount to depriving Israel of "the right to revenge" against Hamas.

However, as the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip continues to deteriorate and international calls for an end to the war and promotion of talks become increasingly louder, supporters of Israel are facing increasing pressure, forcing them to change their attitude.

  Australia, New Zealand and Canada were the first to change their attitudes.

On February 15, the leaders of the three countries took the lead in issuing a joint statement, calling for the "immediate implementation of a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip" and stating that Israel's ground attack on Rafah would be "devastating" and Palestinian civilians would pay a "heavy price" ".

  A few days later, 26 EU countries except Hungary also expressed the same concerns.

26 foreign ministers jointly called for a "humanitarian ceasefire" and urged Israel not to launch a ground attack on Rafah, so as not to aggravate the already serious humanitarian disaster there.

  At the same time, Britain's largest opposition party, the Labor Party, announced its support for "a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip" and said that an attack on Rafah "must not happen."

The British royal family also made a rare statement. Prince William issued a statement before the House of Commons voted on a non-binding "ceasefire resolution", calling for an end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas "as soon as possible".

  Also changing attitudes is the United States.

On February 19, the United States submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council, opposing the Israeli army's attack on Rafah and supporting a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

This is believed to be the first time the United States has called for a ceasefire at the United Nations level since the conflict began.

However, the next day, the United States exclusively vetoed another draft resolution on ceasefire proposed by Algeria to the Security Council. As a result, the draft was not passed, triggering strong dissatisfaction among many countries, including its allies. It can be said that it once again defied the world. No.

  The large-scale "collective shift" in the attitude of Israel's Western allies shows the seriousness of the situation. All parties are unwilling to see Israel insist on going its own way and push the situation into an irreversible situation.

However, Israel's tough attitude has not changed at all.

  On February 17, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made harsh words, emphasizing that the military deployment of Rafah was a necessary step for Israel to achieve its goal of "comprehensive victory" and that Israel would not succumb to international pressure.

He said, "Anyone who prevents us from operating in Rafah will end up saying to us 'lose this war' and this must not be allowed to happen."

On February 18, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet and former Defense Minister, issued an ultimatum to Hamas, stating that if Hamas did not release the imprisoned Israeli hostages before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan (starting around March 10) , the Israeli army will launch ground operations in Rafah.

  Regarding the possible start time of the Rafah operation, US media quoted information from Israeli and US officials on February 19 as saying that the IDF operation in Rafah may start in mid-April after the end of Ramadan.

Egypt has to prepare for the worst

  Israel has repeatedly proposed that Egypt take over and resettle the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but Egypt has firmly opposed it.

Some analysts point out that if Israel insists on advancing on Rafah, refugees from the Gaza Strip are likely to break through the border and flow into the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. This is a situation that the Sisi government does not want to see and cannot accept.

But judging from the current situation, Egypt's concerns are likely to become reality.

  Not long ago, Egypt strongly demanded that Israel exercise restraint and put pressure on it by presenting the "peace treaty" signed with Israel in its early years, but Israel did not buy it.

Egyptian expert on international issues Mustafa said: "With Israel determined to launch military operations against Rafah, Israel is more likely than ever to push the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip directly to Egypt."

  Faced with the risk that the situation may spiral out of control, Egypt has to prepare for the worst.

According to the Times of Israel, in order to strengthen border security, especially to prevent a possible "flux of refugees" in Rafah, Egypt is building buffer facilities in the Sinai Desert as an emergency plan to deal with the risk of spillover from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Some media reported based on relevant satellite images that Egypt has designated about 21 square kilometers of land in the no-man's land of Sinai and is building a 7-meter-high concrete wall to block off the area.

It is expected to accommodate more than 100,000 refugees, and a large number of tents have already arrived.

Although there are "pictures to prove it", Egyptian officials have always denied that they built a "refugee camp".

Since the outbreak of this round of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Egypt has repeatedly emphasized that it does not want to see Palestinians forced to leave their homes.

  For Israel and Hamas, Rafah is the "end" of the confrontation between the two sides in Gaza. Taking this step will leave no room for maneuver.

U.S. President Biden has publicly stated that launching an attack on Rafah would be an "unprecedented disaster" if civilians are not prepared to protect civilians.

  For months, the parties have been trying to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Negotiations between Israel and Hamas appear to be showing "encouraging" signs, according to reports.

On the 23rd, Egypt, Qatar, the United States and other parties conducted a new round of negotiations on a Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire agreement in Paris, France.

Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation quoted Israeli officials as saying that the negotiations have made positive progress and have reached agreement on a new ceasefire agreement framework, but there are still details that have not yet been finalized.

It is also reported that Israel will send a delegation to Doha, the capital of Qatar, in the next few days to conduct further negotiations on a new round of Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire agreement.