Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given the green light for an attack on Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza. The decision was made during a meeting of Israel’s war cabinet.

Rafah shelters over a million displaced people from other parts of Gaza, which has been ravaged by an intense Israeli military campaign for the past five months.

Observers say the announcement of plans to attack Rafah may serve as a strategic move to exert pressure on Hamas during negotiations. The Israeli army reportedly prepares for the assault, focusing on operational logistics and civilian evacuation strategies. No specific timeline has been provided. The preparations indicate that it may take weeks to mobilise the necessary forces to confront Hamas militants in Rafah.

US President Joe Biden labelled it a red line if adequate measures to protect civilians are not assured. Doubts persist among observers regarding Israeli assurances of creating protected zones for civilian evacuation before the assault.

Germany’s Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock condemned the proposed attack on Rafah and urged for a humanitarian truce to prevent further loss of life and secure the release of hostages.

Meanwhile, reports say Hamas tabled a new ceasefire proposal, offering to release Israeli hostages in exchange for the freedom of hundreds of Palestinians held by Israel. The group has proposed a 40-day ceasefire as a concession. Netanyahu dismissed Hamas’s demands as unrealistic but agreed to dispatch an Israeli delegation to Qatar for further negotiations. The White House, however, considers Hamas’s proposal within the bounds of recent discussions. Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri accused Netanyahu of manoeuvring to perpetrate further acts of genocide against the Palestinian population.

Israel has killed at least 31,341 Palestinians, predominantly women and children, since 7 October.

As Gaza faces severe shortage of essential food and medical supplies, a UNICEF report has revealed that 31 per cent of children under the age of two in northern Gaza are suffering from acute malnutrition, representing a significant increase from January’s figures.

With land access to Gaza via Jordan, Israel, and Egypt heavily restricted, some countries explore alternative aid routes, including air and sea options. A Spanish ship, navigating a new maritime corridor from Cyprus, has begun unloading food cargo at a makeshift jetty off the Gaza coast. However, the distribution method for this aid remains to be seen.

Fighting persists across multiple locations in both northern and central Gaza, with reports indicating ongoing clashes near the designated aid distribution point.

Israeli forces continue to target starving Palestinians waiting for food aid and aid distribution centres. In their latest attack, Israeli forces killed 21 Palestinians awaiting humanitarian assistance at the Kuwait roundabout, a critical interchange for humanitarian convoys transporting food into northern Gaza. Over 150 people were wounded in the Israeli attack. Reports citing eyewitnesses say Israeli forces had used helicopters, tanks and drones to attack thousands of people waiting on food trucks. Mohammed Ghurab, director of emergency services at a hospital in northern Gaza, attributed the incident to direct shots by the Israeli occupation forces.

In a similar incident on 29 February, Israel killed 118 Palestinians and wounded nearly 800 others after opening fire on a crowd of Palestinians scrambling for food aid in northern Gaza. Over 400 Palestinian aid seekers have been killed by Israel since the shooting, dubbed the “Flour Massacre.”