The Threat of an Israeli Incursion into Gaza’s Rafah City Persists
The threat of an Israeli incursion into Gaza’s southernmost town of Rafah persists, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising “safe passage” to civilians displaced there. Despite international alarm over the potential for carnage in a city crammed with more than half of the Gaza Strip’s 2.4 million people, Netanyahu told ABC News: “We’re going to do it.”
Netanyahu reiterated his intention to extend Israel’s military operation to the city, emphasizing that victory over Hamas cannot be achieved without clearing battalions in Rafah. His announcement set off a chorus of concern from world leaders and aid groups, who warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the making.
The war in Gaza was sparked by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel, resulting in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians. In response, Israel launched a massive military offensive in Gaza that has killed at least 28,064 people, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry. Militants also seized 250 hostages, 132 of whom are still in Gaza.
Netanyahu’s plan for a ground operation in Rafah comes after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel seeking a ceasefire and hostage-prisoner exchange. However, Netanyahu rejected the proposed truce, citing “bizarre demands” from Hamas. The Israeli prime minister’s decision has drawn sharp rebuke from the United States, with President Joe Biden calling Israel’s retaliatory campaign “over the top.”
Hamas has warned that a full-scale Israeli invasion of Rafah could cause “tens of thousands” of casualties. The move has also been condemned by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, who stated that it threatens security and peace in the region and the world.
To the north in Gaza City, Israel’s military claimed to have uncovered a Hamas tunnel under the evacuated headquarters of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called for the head of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, to resign. Lazzarini, however, denied the allegations and called for an independent investigation.
The war in Gaza has not only caused devastation within the region but has also had far-reaching impacts across the Middle East. Violence involving Iran-backed allies of Hamas has surged, with a senior Hamas officer surviving an Israeli assassination attempt in Lebanon. In Syria, Israeli strikes near Damascus killed three people, including top military and civilian officials.
The war has also sparked public fury in Israel, with protesters taking to the streets of Tel Aviv to demand the release of the hostages, Netanyahu’s resignation, and fresh elections. Many protesters believe that Netanyahu is dragging out the war and has no plan for the day after.
As the threat of an Israeli incursion into Rafah looms, concerns about the safety and well-being of civilians trapped in the city continue to grow. The international community is calling for an immediate pause in the fighting to allow aid to reach those in need and hostages to be released. The situation remains tense, and the world watches anxiously as events unfold in Gaza.