Ongoing and Anticipated Israeli Operations in Rafah

On Saturday, May 11, the Israeli military issued new evacuation orders in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, where more than one million Palestinians have fled for safety. In response to the threat of invasion, more than 360,000 Palestinians have left the city; however, Israel has simultaneously “sen[t] troops and tanks back into [north Gaza].”

This development follows President Biden’s threat to halt the supply of offensive weapons to Israel if it invades Rafah. Despite these warnings, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “vowed to proceed with the attack with or without US arms.”

Regional sources report on Israel’s ongoing and anticipated operations in Rafah: 

White House national security spokesman John Kirby stated that “Smashing into Rafah… will not advance [the objective of defeating Hamas],” according to Alarabiya. He expressed hope that Israel “will do what they’ve said to us about what they’re going to do in Rafah, which is something of limited scale, scope, size, duration.”

The Times of Israel quoted Netanyahu’s response to international pressure and growing condemnation of plans to invade Rafah: “If we have to stand alone, we will do so, because I’m the prime minister of Israel, the one and only Jewish state, and we will not go down.” He assured that Israel “will fight, if necessary, with our fingernails.” 

The American pause on offensive weapons coincides with international concern for the safety of those in Rafah. The Jerusalem Post highlighted that “there are over 1.3 million Palestinians located there, many of whom sought refuge in that area to escape bombing in the north at the start of the war.”

The Saudi Gazette explained that, “even without a full-scale Israeli ground invasion, Rafah’s medical facilities have been overwhelmed… Medics say more than a million people sheltering in the southern Gaza city are at risk of being deprived of healthcare after the Israeli military began a ‘limited’ operation against Hamas on its eastern outskirts.”

Anadolu Agency reported that, last week, Israeli forces launched a ground attack in the area and “captured the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, a vital route for humanitarian aid and the territory’s only gateway to the outside world that bypasses Israel.” As a result of Israel’s anticipated military offensive, 450,000 Palestinians, many of whom had fled there for safety, have been forcibly displaced from the city. 

Last week marks the first time since Israel’s pullout from Gaza in 2007 that it has taken control of the crossing, The New Arab noted. Israel’s “takeover of the Rafah border crossing and its looming offensive… has seen a rift between Israel and neighbouring Egypt widen,”  and Egypt has “repeatedly warned Israel about violating the 1979 peace treaty” between the two states.

Arab News underscored that Israeli operations also continue in northern Gaza, “where they had claimed to have defeated Hamas months ago.” While “Israel described its latest return to the north… as part of a ‘mop-up’ stage of the war to prevent fighters from returning,” many “Palestinians say the need to keep fighting amid the ruins of previous battles is proof Israel’s military objectives are unattainable.”

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