Rafah is a Palestinian city in the southern Gaza Strip. It is the capital of the Rafah Governorate of the State of Palestine, located 30 kilometers (19 mi) south-west of Gaza City. In 2017, Rafah had a population of 171,889. As a result of massive bombardment and ground assaults in Gaza City and Khan Yunis by Israel during the Israel–Hamas war, about 1.4 million people are believed to be sheltering in Rafah as of February 2024. After the 1948 Palestine War, Egypt governed the area and refugee camps for displaced Palestinians were established. During the 1956 Suez Crisis involving Israel, Britain, France, and Egypt, the Israeli military killed 111 Palestinians, including 103 refugees in the Rafah camp during the Rafah massacre. During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt. In that year, the Israeli military bulldozed and blew up 144 houses in Rafah refugee camp killing 23 Palestinians. When Israel withdrew from the Sinai in 1982, Rafah was split into a Gazan part and an Egyptian part, dividing families, separated by barbed-wire barriers. The core of the city was destroyed by Israel, as well as Egypt, in order to create a large buffer zone. Rafah is the site of the Rafah Border Crossing, the sole crossing point between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Gaza's only airport, Yasar Arafat International Airport, was located just south of the city. The airport operated from 1998 to 2001, until it was bombed and bulldozed by the Israeli military The Ottoman–British agreement of 1 October 1906 established a boundary between Ottoman-ruled Palestine and British-ruled Egypt, from Taba to Rafah. After World War I, Palestine was also under British control, but the Egypt-Palestine Boundary was maintained to control movement of the local Bedouin. From the mid-1930s the British enhanced the border control and Rafah evolved as a small boundary town that functioned as a trade and services centre for the semi-settled Beduin population.During World War II, it became an important British base. Following the Armistice Agreement of 24 February 1949, Rafah was located in Egypt-occupied Gaza and consequently, a Gaza–Egypt border did no longer exist. Rafah could grow without any consideration being taken of the old 1906 international boundary. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel conquered the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt and all of the city was now under Israeli occupation. In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty that returned the Sinai, which borders the Gaza Strip, to Egyptian control. In the Peace Treaty, the re-created Gaza–Egypt border was drawn across the city of Rafah. Rafah was divided into an Egyptian and a Palestinian part, splitting up families, separated by barbed-wire barriers. Families were separated, property was divided and many houses and orchards were cut across and destroyed by the new boundary, bulldozed, allegedly for security reasons. Rafah became one of the three border points between Egypt and Israel. Rafah appeared in the 1596 Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Gaza of the Liwa of Gazza. It had a population of 15 households, all Muslim, who paid taxes on wheat, barley, summer crops, occasional revenues, goats and/or bee hives. In 1799, the Revolutionary Army of France commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte passed through Rafah during the invasion of Egypt and Syria. Rafah was the boundary between the provinces of Egypt and Syria. In 1832, the area came under Egyptian occupation of Muhammad Ali, which lasted until 1840. The French explorer Victor Guérin, who visited in May 1863, noted two pillars of granite which the locals called Bab el Medinet, meaning "The Gate of the town". In 1881, Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria wrote: "Fragments of gray granite pillars, still standing, are here to be met with about the road, the fields, and the sand, and we saw one lying on the ground half buried... The pillars are the remains of an ancient temple, Raphia, and are of special importance in the eyes of the Arabs, who call them Rafah, as they mark the boundary between Egypt and Syria." 2023–2024 War in Gaza During the Israeli Defence Forces' (IDF) war on Gaza, civilians were told to flee to Rafah and forcibly displaced from their homes. Although the Israeli government declared the southern half of Gaza a safe zone, the IDF proceeded to bomb the region extensively, with a New York Times investigation estimating that 2,000-pound bombs were dropped at least 200 times as of 21 December 2023. By February 2024, roughly two-thirds of Gaza's population, or 1.4 million people, had been forcibly displaced from other parts of the territory into Rafah, with the IDF declaring its intent to enter the city. Critics have warned about the potential for mass civilian casualties in the event of a ground invasion, with the UN secretary general António Guterres arguing that "Such an action would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences." On 9 February, Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the IDF to create an evacuation plan to remove civilians before launching an offensive against Rafah which is the last major population center in the Gaza Strip still under Hamas control and the elimination of Hamas was considered to be impossible as long as the four Hamas battalions in Rafah are intact. Prior to the start of the ground invasion, Israel began to intensify its strikes on Rafah from the air. More than 44 people were killed in airstrikes on Rafah on 11 February, with many likely still under the rubble. Netanyahu continued to push for a ground invasion, claiming that "We're going to do it....Victory is within reach". As of May 2024, the State of Palestine is recognized as a sovereign state by 142 of the 193 member states of the United Nations. It has been a non-member observer state of the United Nations General Assembly since November 2012. The State of Palestine had been officially declared by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on 15 November 1988, claiming sovereignty over the internationally recognized Palestinian territories: the West Bank, which includes East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. By the end of 1988, the Palestinian state was recognized by 78 countries. In an attempt to solve the decades-long Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the Oslo Accords were signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993 and 1995, creating the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a self-governing interim administration in the Gaza Strip and around 40% of the West Bank. After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and Benjamin Netanyahu's ascension to power, negotiations between Israel and the PA stalled, which led the Palestinians to pursue international recognition of the State of Palestine without Israeli acquiescence. In 2011, the State of Palestine was admitted into UNESCO; in 2012, after it was accepted as an observer state of the United Nations General Assembly with the votes of 138 member states of the United Nations, the PA began to officially use the name "State of Palestine" for all purposes. Among the G20, nine countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey) have recognized Palestine as a state, while ten countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have not. Although these countries generally support some form of a two-state solution to the conflict, they take the position that their recognition of a Palestinian state is conditioned to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. KNOW MORE
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