Israel’s six-week pressure to hit Hamas in Rafah and cut back battle By way of Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Palestinians check up on a area hit through an Israeli strike, in Rafah within the southern Gaza Strip February 16, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa


(Refiles to mend further reporting byline)

By way of Samia Nakhoul, Jonathan Saul and Humeyra Pamuk

DOHA (Reuters) – Israel expects to proceed full-scale army operations in Gaza for any other six to 8 weeks because it prepares to mount a floor invasion of the enclave’s southernmost town of Rafah, 4 officers acquainted with the tactic mentioned.

Army chiefs consider they are able to considerably injury Hamas’ ultimate functions in that point, paving the way in which for a shift to a lower-intensity segment of focused airstrikes and particular forces operations, in step with the 2 Israeli and two regional officers who requested to stay nameless to talk freely. 

There’s little likelihood that Top Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s executive will heed global grievance to name off a Rafah floor attack, mentioned Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence legit and a negotiator within the first and 2d Palestinian intifadas, or uprisings, within the Eighties and 2000s.

“Rafah is the ultimate bastion of Hamas keep an eye on and there stay battalions in Rafah which Israel should dismantle to reach its targets on this battle,” he added.

Protection Minister Yoav Gallant mentioned on Friday that Israel Protection Forces (IDF) have been making plans operations in Rafah focused on Hamas warring parties, command centres and tunnels, although gave no timeline for the marketing campaign. He wired that “peculiar measures” have been being taken to steer clear of civilian casualties.

“There have been 24 regional battalions in Gaza – we’ve dismantled 18 of them,” he advised a media briefing. “Now, Rafah is the following Hamas centre of gravity.” 

International leaders concern a humanitarian disaster.

Trapped between the 2 sworn enemies are greater than one million Palestinian civilians stuffed into the town at the Egyptian border, with nowhere left to run, after fleeing Israeli assaults that experience laid waste to a lot of the enclave. 

In a previous week of top diplomatic rigidity, U.S. President Joe Biden phoned the Israeli chief two times to warn him in opposition to launching an army operation in Rafah with no credible plan to verify the security of civilians. Netanyahu himself mentioned civilians can be allowed to go away the struggle zone ahead of the offensive, whilst he vowed “whole victory”.

The IDF hasn’t defined how it is going to transfer greater than one million other folks throughout the ruins of the enclave. 

Consistent with one Israeli safety supply and a global support legit, who requested to not be recognized, Gazans may well be screened to weed out any Hamas warring parties ahead of being despatched northwards. A separate Israeli supply mentioned Israel may just additionally construct a floating jetty north of Rafah to permit global support and sanatorium ships to reach through sea.

However, an Israeli defence legit mentioned Palestinians would not be allowed to go back to north Gaza en masse, leaving scrubland round Rafah as an possibility for makeshift tent towns. The regional officers additionally mentioned it would not be protected to transport numerous other folks right into a northern zone and not using a energy and operating water which hasn’t been cleared of unexploded ordinance.

Washington is sceptical Israel has made enough arrangements for a safe civilian evacuation, a number of officers acquainted with the conversations between the 2 governments mentioned. Biden mentioned on Friday he did not be expecting a “large” Israeli floor invasion to occur quickly.

Moreover, in step with Hamas, the entire victory promised through Netanyahu may not be fast or simple. 

A Hamas legit primarily based in Qatar advised Reuters that the gang estimated it had misplaced 6,000 warring parties all over the four-month-old warfare, part the 12,000 Israel says it has killed.

Gaza’s ruling workforce can stay combating and is ready for an extended battle in Rafah and Gaza, mentioned the legit, who asked anonymity. 

“Netanyahu’s choices are tough and ours are too. He can occupy Gaza however Hamas remains to be status and combating. He hasn’t accomplished his targets to kill the Hamas management or annihilate Hamas,” he added.


Hamas brought on the warfare on Oct. 7 ultimate yr when its warring parties burst out of the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, killing 1,200 other folks and seizing 253 hostages. The marvel assault brought about a large retaliatory Israeli bombardment and floor invasion that experience killed greater than 28,000 Palestinians.

A lot of Gaza has been diminished to rubble through Israel. Combating continues within the southern town of Khan Younis, with sporadic clashes nonetheless breaking out in northern spaces supposedly cleared.

Greater than 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million population had been left homeless. Many of the displaced have sought refuge in Rafah, which had a pre-war inhabitants of about 300,000.

“There is not any empty area in Rafah, over one million and part individuals are right here. Does the arena know that? A slaughter goes to happen if the tanks input,” mentioned Emad Joudat, 55, who fled there together with his circle of relatives early within the battle from Gaza Town, the place he ran a furnishings trade. 

“I’m in price of a large circle of relatives,” mentioned the father-of-five, who lives in a tent town and not using a meals or water in Rafah. “I believe helpless as a result of do not know the place to head with them if Israel launches an invasion.”

Egypt has sealed off its border to the enclave. Cairo has framed its opposition to the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza as a part of wider Arab rejection of any repeat of the “Nakba”, or “disaster”, when 700,000 Palestinians fled or have been pressured from their properties all over the 1948 battle that accompanied Israel’s advent.

Egypt is nevertheless making ready a space on the border that might accommodate Palestinians, as a contingency must an Israeli offensive into Rafah suggested an exodus around the frontier, 3 safety resources in Egypt advised Reuters, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject. 

The Egyptian executive denied making the sort of arrangements.

Israeli Protection Minister Gallant mentioned Israel had no purpose of evacuating Palestinian civilians to Egypt. 


Melamed, the previous Israeli intelligence legit and negotiator, mentioned the one possible lengthen to the Israeli attack on Rafah may just come must Hamas give floor in hostage negotiations and give up the prisoners it took on Oct. 7. 

“Even that might best lengthen the improvement on Rafah except it’s coupled with the demilitarization of the town and give up of the Hamas battalions there,” he added.

A senior regional safety legit mentioned Israel believed some Hamas commanders and hostages have been in Rafah.

This month, after weeks of negotiations, Hamas proposed a ceasefire of 4-1/2 months all over which it might loose all Israeli hostages, Israel would withdraw its troops from Gaza and an settlement can be reached on an finish to the battle. 

Netanyahu rejected the be offering as “delusional”. A brand new spherical of talks involving The united states, Egypt, Israel and Qatar on a truce ended with no step forward in Cairo on Tuesday.

Senior American officers see securing a deal to free up the remainder hostages in alternate for a longer pause within the warfare as the most productive trail to making area for broader talks, the U.S. resources mentioned. But they are involved this kind of deal would possibly not materialise in coming weeks and battle will proceed into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in March and April, which might accentuate international grievance of Israel’s marketing campaign, they added. 

An overarching settlement to finish the warfare seems far flung.

Any try to shape a post-war executive in Gaza may just best prevail if it has Hamas’ approval, in step with a number of resources within the area, together with from the militant workforce and the Palestinian Authority, which used to be driven out of Gaza through Hamas in 2007. 

But one thing has to offer. 

Israel has vowed to wipe out Hamas. And the gang’s chief in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, will struggle to the demise somewhat than give up or cross into exile, in step with Hamas and regional officers.

Israel additionally stays adversarial to any deal involving an enduring ceasefire or a Palestinian state, in spite of U.S. power and global outcry over civilian struggling in Gaza and the loss of development to a long-lasting peace resolution.     

Since October, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made 5 visits to the area. Remaining month, the State Division mentioned Washington used to be “actively pursuing the established order of an unbiased Palestinian state” with safety promises for Israel and exploring choices with companions within the area. 

UK International Secretary David Cameron additionally advised lawmakers that Britain and its allies “will take a look at the problem of recognising a Palestinian state, together with on the United International locations”. 

Israel, the U.S. and Britain have not officially recognised Palestine, not like just about 140 different U.N. countries. 

But for Netanyahu and plenty of different Israeli officers, communicate of a two-state resolution quantities to a betrayal of the folks killed on Oct. 7.

“I say obviously to any individual nonetheless caught in October 6: We can by no means have the same opinion to the advent of a Palestinian state,” Israeli Tradition Minister Miki Zohar mentioned on social media ultimate month. “That is our pledge to the sacred homicide sufferers.”


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