Rafah Offensive: What We Know Amid Evacuation Talk | NEWSWEEK

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Rafah Offensive: What We Know Amid Evacuation Talk | Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in this article by Brendan Cole Senior News Reporter for NEWSWEEK.


Israel is preparing for the evacuation of the population in Rafah in the Gaza Strip ahead of an imminent military operation there, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speculation has been mounting over what will happen in the next stage of Israel’s war against Hamas following months of bombardment of Gaza after the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 raid into southern Israel in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 were abducted.

Since then, officials in Gaza say at least 34,000 have been killed in the territory. Netanyahu and his governing partners say Rafah is Hamas’ last major stronghold, but it is also where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are sheltering and the international community has warned against any offensive that risks civilians.

What we know:

Netanyahu held a meeting on Tuesday with the families of soldiers abducted and killed by Hamas during which he dismissed the possibility of a ceasefire with the Palestinian militants until key conditions are met.

He told members of the Bravery and Hatikva Forums Israel would enter Rafah to destroy Hamas battalions, whether or not there was a truce-for-hostages deal, saying that stopping the war “before achieving all of its goals is out of the question,” which included “total victory.”

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has approved final plans for an attack on Rafah and has made arrangements for the evacuation of civilians, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported. Meanwhile, Netanyahu said “we have begun the evacuation of the population in Rafah.”

However, Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine refugees in the Near East denied that such an evacuation was underway but said “there is an extraordinary deep anxiety prevailing right now in Gaza.”

Views

Netanyahu is under pressure from his governing partners not to go ahead with a deal that would prevent Israel from attacking Rafah, and his government could be threatened if he agrees to a deal due to the demands of his hardline cabinet members.

Netanyahu’s comments on Tuesday appeared to be meant to appease his nationalist governing partners, although it is uncertain whether they would have any bearing on a deal with Hamas, The Associated Press said.

However, former Israeli Intelligence official and regional analyst Avi Melamed told Newsweek that “both the Israeli public and Hamas have shown indicators of understanding that the IDF operation in Rafah is likely to commence imminently.”

“It is also very clear that Western leaders understand the imminency of the Israeli operation and have thus renewed their unified demand that Hamas release the hostages it holds,” he said.

Andrew Mitchell, the British deputy foreign secretary told British lawmakers in parliament on Tuesday that given the number of civilians sheltering in Rafah, “it’s not easy to see how such an offensive could be compliant with international humanitarian law.”

What Next?

Netanyahu’s comments suggested a move on Rafah imminently, but White House National Security Spokesperson John Kirby said on Sunday that Israel would not act “until we’ve had a chance to really share our perspectives and our concerns with them.”

Following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet on Tuesday with Itamar Ben-Gvir, his national security minister, who opposes a ceasefire.

U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron joined Western officials, including Blinken, in urging Hamas to accept a “generous” deal in which in return for its hostages, there would be a sustained 40-day ceasefire and the release of potentially thousands of Palestinian prisoners. Israel has demanded at least 40 hostages be released, but was now prepared to settle for 33, Israeli officials told The New York Times.

It comes amid reports that the International Criminal Court in The Netherlands may issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and senior military officials amid international condemnation of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Daniel Shadmy, spokesperson for the nongovernmental organization, the European Leadership Network-Israel, told Newsweek that such warrants would not be issued without the agreement from the United States and may be “a pressure lever in a larger negotiation with Israel.”

However, he said that there are concerns that such warrants “might hinder the ongoing negotiations for a hostage deal with Hamas that would include a halt of hostilities in Gaza and a potential rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.”


Rafah Offensive: What We Know Amid Evacuation Talk | Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in this article by Brendan Cole Senior News Reporter for NEWSWEEK.

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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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