Israel’s ‘slow’ and ‘bloody’ attack on Rafah aims to force Hamas to accept truce terms | I PAPER NEWS

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Israel’s ‘slow’ and ‘bloody’ attack on Rafah aims to force Hamas to accept truce terms | Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in this article by By Kieron Monks, Originally published in I PAPER NEWS.


Israel has begun a ‘limited’ operation in Rafah despite international opposition amid fears of heavy civilian casualties

Israeli tanks entered Rafah and seized the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Tuesday, as Israeli negotiators flew to Cairo for talks over a ceasefire and prisoner exchange deal.

Government spokesman David Mencer said Israel’s incursion into Rafah was intended to “pressure” Hamas to release hostages on more favourable terms after Israel rejected a deal endorsed by the militant group on Monday.

Palestinian sources reported heavy bombing and casualties in Gaza’s southernmost city on Tuesday, where more than a million civilians have sought shelter from fighting elsewhere in the enclave, while an Israeli ground force moved in with armoured vehicles to take control of the border.

Foreign governments, the UN, and aid groups oppose any Israeli offensive in Rafah due to humanitarian concerns about the potential impact on the civilian population. Plans to enter the city that were first announced in February have been repeatedly delayed.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday he was “deeply concerned” and deputy foreign secretary Andrew Mitchell said Israel had not presented a “credible plan to protect civilians”.

US President Joe Biden “reiterated his clear position on Rafah” in a call with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. EU Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell warned: “This is going to cause again a lot of civilian casualties, whatever they say.”

Israeli officials say the incursion has been limited so far. Mr Mencer told reporters a “precise counter terror operation has begun” through attacks on “Hamas terror infrastructure within specific parts of eastern Rafah”.

Israel has instructed about 100,000 Palestinians in these areas to leave for designated “safe zones” in al-Mawasi and Khan Yunis. Aid groups say both areas lack the infrastructure to support large populations of displaced people, and no area of Gaza is safe.

Seizing the border will allow Israel to cut off the flow of arms and other resources to Hamas, Mr Mencer added, claiming the group is using underground tunnels to smuggle supplies from Egypt.

Israel Ziv, a retired major general and head of the IDF operations directorate, said Israel appeared to be using the incursion to strengthen its position in talks.

“The purpose of this operation is mainly to increase leverage in the negotiations to get a better deal and lower the demands of Hamas,” he said. “The Rafah passage is the most important in Gaza, and by holding the airway of Gaza, Israel gives Hamas the understanding that Israel holds the key to its future.”

Avi Melamed, an Israeli former intelligence official, said operations in Rafah would be “slow and deliberate” with an eye to international concerns.

“Israel understands the diplomatic challenges that its operation in the city will cause and the tempo of its operations is therefore likely to be slower and more deliberate than it was in the other parts of Gaza,” he said.

Mohammed Al Najjar, a 23-year-old lawyer in Rafah, told i: “The state of displacement from Rafah continues after a bloody night in Rafah that affected a number of homes, resulting in a number of wounded and dead. After the occupation took control of the Rafah land crossing as well. The sound of explosions has not stopped since last night. Artillery is bombing next to the planes.”

“A very large number of martyrs cannot be reached by ambulances in the eastern areas of Rafah”, he added.

Egypt, a key mediator, has said that Israeli control of the border is unacceptable and accused Tel Aviv of deliberately undermining ceasefire talks after Hamas signed off a proposal presented by Egypt and Qatar, leading to brief celebrations among Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel said the terms were “unacceptable” and contained major differences to a previous draft it agreed to last week. Hamas had claimed to have assurances from the US that the ceasefire would become permanent, while Israel has said it will only countenance a temporary truce.

Israeli officials said a diplomatic team was heading to Cairo to discuss terms while downplaying hopes of a breakthrough. CIA director William Burns was also due in the Egyptian capital on Tuesday.

“This delegation is made up of mid-level envoys,” an unnamed Israeli official told Reuters. “Were there a credible deal in the offing, the principals would be heading the delegation.”

Hamas said the attack on Rafah was intended to wreck prospects for a deal to serve the “personal interests” of Mr Netanyahu, who is under pressure from far right coalition partners not to end the war.

“This crime – which comes directly after the Hamas movement announced its approval of the mediators’ proposal – confirms the occupation’s intention to disrupt mediation efforts for a ceasefire and the release of prisoners, for the personal interests of Netanyahu and his extremist government,” the militant group said.

Israel’s seizure of the Rafah crossing has already had a damaging effect on the beleaguered local population, according to local journalist Hind Khoudary.

“There are thousands of people with injuries that were waiting for their medical transfers to leave Gaza to get their healthcare,” she said. “Now no one can leave.”

Humanitarian groups accused Israel of shutting down aid routes into Gaza as it launched the Rafah operation, which they said could exacerbate a humanitarian crisis, after the World Food Programme said “full blown famine” had taken hold in parts of the enclave last week.

“We are gravely concerned that the intensified attack on Rafah has led to the closure of all aid routes into Gaza,” Action Aid said in a statement on Tuesday. “No humanitarian relief is getting in, creating a dire situation for the 2.2 million people already struggling with starvation, disease and a severe lack of medical support.

“The chaos of the last 48 hours has left Rafah’s residents in terror and confusion, with nowhere safe to turn. We remind the Israeli authorities that all those who remain or are unable to leave, including people in need of medical care, the elderly and people with disabilities, are protected under international humanitarian law, and must not be targeted.”

An Israeli spokesperson said southern crossings had been temporarily closed due to an attack claimed by Hamas that killed four Israeli soldiers close to the Kerem Shalom crossing. The spokesperson said northern crossings were open but referred questions to COGAT, the Israeli body overseeing aid to Gaza, which did not respond to an inquiry.

While IDF operations in Rafah remain limited for now that could rapidly change, suggests Professor Kobi Michael, a military analyst at Israeli think tanks the Institute for National Security Studies, and the Misgav Institute.

“It depends on developments,” he said. “If Hamas decides to counter the IDF we will find ourselves in a broader war in Rafah.”


Israel’s ‘slow’ and ‘bloody’ attack on Rafah aims to force Hamas to accept truce terms | Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in this article by By Kieron Monks, Originally published in I PAPER NEWS.

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamedhttps://insidethemiddle-east.com
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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