Cairo/Tel Aviv (Agencies): As international calls grow for Israel to hold back on its planned assault on Rafah, officials from the United States, Egypt, Israel, and Qatar are meeting in Cairo to try to agree on a truce in Gaza. The southern city of Rafah, a Palestinian enclave, is currently home to more than one million displaced civilians who have fled Israeli bombardments in other areas of Gaza during over four months of warfare.

Israel has stated its intention to flush out Hamas militants from hideouts in Rafah and free Israeli hostages being held there. Plans are also being made to evacuate trapped Palestinian civilians. However, no concrete plan has been presented yet, and aid agencies report that the displaced have nowhere else to go in the devastated territory.

Overnight, Israeli tanks shelled the eastern sector of Rafah, causing widespread panic among residents. Rafah, which borders Egypt, has been made clear by Cairo that it will not allow a refugee exodus over the border.

Gaza health officials have announced 133 new Palestinian deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 28,473 killed and 68,146 wounded since October 7. Many others are believed to be buried under the rubble of destroyed buildings across the densely populated enclave, much of which lies in ruins. Essential supplies such as food, water, and other necessities are running out, and diseases are spreading.

Approximately half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are now packed into Rafah, many of whom have fled other areas under fire. As one resident, 30-year-old Aya, living in a tent with her family, poignantly put it, “Since Israel said they are invading Rafah soon…we read our last prayers every night. Every night we say farewell to one another and to relatives outside Rafah.”

South Africa has asked the World Court to consider whether Israel’s plan to extend its offensive into Rafah requires additional emergency measures to protect Palestinians’ rights. The situation remains tense as the world watches and waits for the outcome of the truce talks in Cairo.

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