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These photos show Palestinians' quick exodus from Rafah after Israel issued evacuation orders

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These photos show Palestinians' quick exodus from Rafah after Israel issued evacuation orders
News

News

These photos show Palestinians' quick exodus from Rafah after Israel issued evacuation orders

2024-05-21 09:07 Last Updated At:09:10

JERUSALEM (AP) — Newly-released satellite photos reviewed by the Associated Press show a large exodus of Palestinians from the southernmost Gaza city of Rafah earlier this month ahead of a feared Israeli ground invasion there.

The photos taken three days apart — first on May 5 and then on May 8 — show the change on the ground after Israel issued its first evacuation order for the city on May 6.

They show that crowded tent camps in the central and northwest regions of the city grew sparse within days of the order.

One pair of before-and-after photos shows an area near the Tel al-Sultan refugee camp, one of the camps built for families displaced during the war surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948.

In the three days between the photos, at least half of the hundreds of tents cramming the area disappeared, likely from Palestinians packing up and departing.

The other pair of photos shows the central Ash Shabourah neighborhood of Rafah city. Tents packing city streets give way to sandy patches.

The departures come as Israel threatens a full-blown invasion of the city, which has stirred global alarm. Before the evacuation orders, some 1.3 million Palestinians — many already displaced from other parts of Gaza — had taken shelter there, according to the UN.

It was unclear where all the Palestinians packing up their tents and fleeing Rafah are going. Rights groups say there is nowhere in Gaza with nearly enough food, water or tents for the newly displaced masses. The zone where Israel has directed Palestinians is an already-packed area that residents say is little more than a squalid makeshift tent camp.

Israel's military told reporters Monday that 900,000 Palestinians had left Rafah. Scott Anderson, the director of UNRWA's operations in Gaza, said the figure was feasible, adding that the UN's Sunday count was 800,000.

Israel has so far classified its operations in the city as limited in scope, a claim the U.S. has echoed. But Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director for Human Rights Watch, said the mass displacement showed a different reality on the ground and called on the international community to stop Israel's threatened offensive.

“We have a situation today where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have again been displaced from their homes, terrified, having no place to go,” he said.

Israel's military said Monday the war would likely last another six months. The statement came as ceasefire talks seemed frozen, with international mediators who had hoped to broker a deal between Israel and Hamas reportedly growing frustrated with the bitter enemies' intransigence.

The war began after the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack that killed about 1,200 Israelis. Israel's Gaza offensive killed around 35,000 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Hamas-led Gaza, and displaced three-fourths of the strip's population.

Holm reported from New York.

Find more of AP's war coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows an camp before its mass evacuation in Rafah, Gaza, May 5, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows an camp before its mass evacuation in Rafah, Gaza, May 5, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows an evacuated camp in Rafah, Gaza, May 8, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows an evacuated camp in Rafah, Gaza, May 8, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows an camp before its mass evacuation in Rafah, Gaza, May 5, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows an camp before its mass evacuation in Rafah, Gaza, May 5, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows an evacuated camp in Rafah, Gaza, May 8, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows an evacuated camp in Rafah, Gaza, May 8, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Judges, state lawmakers and voters are deciding the future of abortion in the U.S. two years after the Supreme Court jolted the legal status quo with a ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

The June 24, 2022, ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization sparked legislative action, protest and numerous lawsuits — placing the issue at the center of politics across the country.

Abortion is now banned at all stages of pregnancy, with limited exceptions, in 14 Republican-controlled states. In three other states, it's barred after about the first six weeks, which is before many know they are pregnant. Most Democratic-led states have taken actions to protect abortion rights, and become sanctuaries for out-of-state patients seeking care.

That's changed the landscape of abortion access, making it more of a logistical and financial ordeal for many in conservative states. But it has not reduced the overall number of procedures done each month across the U.S.

Here's what to know about the state of abortion rights in the U.S. now.

Bans in Republican-led states have prompted many people seeking abortions to travel to get care.

That translates into higher costs for gas or plane tickets, hotels and meals; more logistics to figure out, including child care; and more days off work.

A new study by the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for abortion access, found that out of just over a million abortions provided in clinics, hospitals and doctors' offices, more than 161,000 — or 16% — were for people who crossed state lines to get them.

More than two-thirds of abortions done in Kansas and New Mexico were for out-of-staters, particularly Texans.

Since Florida's six-week abortion ban kicked in in May, many people had to travel farther than before, since throughout the Southeast, most states have bans.

Low-income patients and those lacking legal permission to be in the country are more likely to be unable to travel. There can be lasting costs for those who do.

In Alabama, the Yellowhammer Fund, which previously helped residents pay for the procedure has paused doing so since facing threats of litigation from the state.

Jenice Fountain, Yellowhammer’s executive director, said she met a woman recently who traveled from Alabama to neighboring Georgia for an abortion but found she couldn’t get one there because she was slightly too far into her pregnancy. So she then went to Virginia. The journey wiped out her rent money and she needed help to remain housed.

“We’re having people use every dime that they have to get out of state, or use every dime they have to have another child,” Fountain said.

Nearly two-thirds of known abortions last year were provided with pills rather than procedures.

One report found that pills are prescribed via telehealth and mailed to about 6,000 people a month who live in states with abortion bans. They're sent by medical providers in states with laws intended to protect them from prosecution for those prescriptions. The laws in Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Washington specifically protect medical providers who prescribe the pills to patients in states with bans.

The growing prominence of pills, which were used in about half of all abortions just before the Dobbs ruling, is a frontier in the latest chapter of the legal fight.

The U.S. Supreme Court this month unanimously rejected an effort by abortion opponents who were seeking to overturn or roll back the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, one of two drugs usually used together for medication abortions. The issue is likely to return.

In this presidential election year, abortion is a key issue.

Protecting access has emerged as a key theme in the campaigns of Democrats, including President Joe Biden in his reelection bid. Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has said states should decide whether to restrict abortions. He also suggested states could limit contraception use but changed his tune on that.

“We recognize this could be the last Dobbs anniversary we celebrate,” Kelsey Pritchard, a spokesperson for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America said in an interview, noting that if Democrats win the presidency and regain control of both chambers of Congress, a right to abortion could be enshrined in the law.

The issue will also be put directly before voters in at least four states. Colorado, Florida, Maryland and South Dakota have ballot measures this year asking voters to approve state constitutional amendments that would protect or expand access to abortion. There are attempts to put questions about abortion access on the ballots this year in Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska and Nevada, plus a legal challenge of a court ruling that knocked a New York measure off the ballot.

There's also a push for a ballot measure in Arizona, where the state Supreme Court this year ruled that an 1864 abortion ban could be enforced. With the help of some Republicans — Democrats in the Legislature were able to repeal that law.

Generally, abortion rights expand when voters are deciding. In the seven statewide abortion policy-related votes since 2022, voters have sided with abortion rights advocates in every case.

The Dobbs ruling and its aftermath gave rise to a bevy of legal questions and lawsuits challenging nearly every ban and restriction.

Many of those questions deal with how exceptions — which come into play far more often when abortion is barred earlier in pregnancy — should apply. The issue is often raised by those who wanted to be pregnant but who experienced life-threatening complications.

A group of women who had serious pregnancy complications but were denied abortions in Texas sued, claiming the state's ban is vague about which exceptions are allowed. The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court disagreed in a May ruling.

The Supreme Court also heard arguments in April on the federal government's lawsuit against Idaho, which says its ban on abortions at all stages of pregnancy can extend to women in medical emergencies. The Biden administration says that violates federal law. A ruling on that case could be issued at any time.

Meanwhile, bans have been put on hold by judges in Iowa, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

FILE - Paul Meacham holds high a sign that reads "Ohio is pro-life" as the crowd prays during the Ohio March for Life rally at the Ohio State House in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Oct. 6, 2023. Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ended a nationwide right to abortion, travel and pills have become big parts of the issue. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

FILE - Paul Meacham holds high a sign that reads "Ohio is pro-life" as the crowd prays during the Ohio March for Life rally at the Ohio State House in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Oct. 6, 2023. Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ended a nationwide right to abortion, travel and pills have become big parts of the issue. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

FILE - People march through downtown Amarillo to protest a lawsuit to ban the abortion drug mifepristone, Feb. 11, 2023, in Amarillo, Texas. Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ended a nationwide right to abortion, travel and pills have become big parts of the issue.(AP Photo/Justin Rex, File)

FILE - People march through downtown Amarillo to protest a lawsuit to ban the abortion drug mifepristone, Feb. 11, 2023, in Amarillo, Texas. Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ended a nationwide right to abortion, travel and pills have become big parts of the issue.(AP Photo/Justin Rex, File)

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