Why Israel Wants Military Offensive In Rafah? Will This End The Gaza War? | CNN NEWS 18 – INDIA

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Why Israel Wants Military Offensive In Rafah? Will This End The Gaza War? | Avi Melamed quoted by Shilpy Bisht for CNN NEWS 18 – INDIA

With Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approving military’s plan for an offensive in Rafah last month, more than 1 million Palestinians living in Gaza’s southern city are weighing the option to stay or flee. Reports suggest that Israeli military has called up two reserve brigades for duty in Gaza, set up tent encampments in north of Rafah.

At least 20 Palestinians were killed in an airstrike on three houses in Rafah on Monday. In Gaza City, in the north of the Gaza Strip, Israeli warplanes struck two houses, killing at least four people and wounding several people, health officials said, as reported by news agency Reuters.

US President Joe Biden had “reiterated his clear position” on Rafah to Israel PM Netanyahu in a call on Sunday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has “appealed” to the US to ask Israel to stop the Rafah operation, pointing out that even a “small strike” in Rafah would force Palestinians to flee the Gaza Strip.

Israel, however, had said the military offensive in Rafah is necessary to eliminate Hamas and free the remaining 133 hostages taken captive since the October 7 attack, most of whom are believed to be alive.

The Rafah attack comes after the international agencies made a renewed effort to press for ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Hamas had last weekend said it was studying Israel’s counterproposal for a Gaza ceasefire after media reports emerged saying a delegation from mediator Egypt was in Israel trying to “jump-start stalled negotiations”.

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

Why is Rafah Important?

Netanyahu had said, “It is impossible to complete the victory (against Hamas) without the Israel Defense Forces entering Rafah”.

Rafah is located along the 12 km border that divides The Gaza Strip, a narrow 41-km Palestinian territory situated along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, from Egypt. It is a home to four Hamas combat battalions.

There are three main entry and exit points — the Erez crossing in the north, and the Rafah crossing in the south. In the south of Gaza, there is also the Karem Abu Salem goods crossing. The Erez crossing is managed by Israel while Rafah, a vast territory of mountains and desert, is controlled by Egypt.

Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters but Rafah is the only crossing that is not directly under it.

Geographically and strategically, the Rafah crossing is the primary exit point for people from Gaza, and also serves as a main link between Gaza and the world.

The Rafah crossing is under Egyptian control as per a 2007 agreement with Israel.

It is only through Rafah that people of Gaza get essential items such as fuel, cooking gas, medicine and construction materials from Egypt. However, the crossing remains shut for most days of the year.

Israel opened the Rafah crossing following the 1979 peace treaty, and the movement of people from Gaza into Egypt remained in Israel’s control from 1982 until 2005. From November 2005, the Rafah crossing came under Egyptian, Palestinian Authority and European Union control — the first time Palestinians had gained partial control of one of their international borders.

After Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007, the European Union withdrew control of the border. Israel and Egypt’s subsequent joint blockade and their decision to shut down the Rafah crossing following the Hamas takeover effectively sealed off the Gaza Strip on all sides. Since then, the crossing has only been intermittently open to Palestinians, according to a report by an American non-profit media organisation National Public Radio NPR.

What Are Israel’s Plans in Rafah?

“Hamas should know that when the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] goes into Rafah, it would do best to raise its hands in surrender. Rafah will not be the Rafah of today,” Israeli Brig. Gen. Itzik Cohen had told Israeli public broadcaster Kan, adding that the city would be free of arms and hostages, as mentioned in an NPR report.

In February, Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence official and a negotiator in the first and second Palestinian intifadas, or uprisings, in the 1980s and 2000s, had told Reuters that Rafah is the last bastion of Hamas control and “there remain battalions in Rafah which Israel must dismantle to achieve its goals in this war”.

The Reuters report had said, quoting an Israeli security source and an international aid official, that Gazans could be screened to single out Hamas fighters before being sent northwards. A separate Israeli source said Israel could also build a floating jetty north of Rafah to enable international aid and hospital ships to arrive by sea.

Why Israel Wants Military Offensive In Rafah? Will This End The Gaza War? | Avi Melamed quoted by Shilpy Bisht for CNN NEWS 18 – INDIA

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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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