Why Israel's imminent Rafah offensive has prompted international condemnation - and what it means for a million people in Gaza

Rafah

Over a million people from Palestine staying in the vicinity of the southern region of Rafah are expecting an attack from the Israeli military. They have no safe place within the confines of Gaza to escape to.

Rafah - Figure 1
Photo Sky News

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has instructed the IDF to create a strategy for emptying the city and dismantling four Hamas battalions that are established there.

Can you tell me about Rafah's whereabouts and its current condition?

Rafah is a municipality situated in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, which shares a boundary with Egypt.

Following the Hamas attack on 7th October, Israel initiated a strong offensive in the crowded region. In response, Mr. Netanyahu urged people in Gaza to move to secure areas situated in the southern region of the territory. As of now, Rafah is accommodating a staggering 1.4 million Palestinians.

At present, there is no apparent destination to seek assistance, and humanitarian organizations have cautioned that numerous individuals may face fatalities.

What is the reason behind Israel's focus on Rafah?

According to Major General Charlie Herbert, a military expert, the IDF is shifting its focus to Rafah following their operations in northern Gaza, Gaza City, central Gaza, and Khan Younis. They are looking into the Hamas battalions that are believed to be present in Rafah. This information was shared with Sky News.

Rafah - Figure 2
Photo Sky News

According to Maj Gen Herbert, Israel is trying to eliminate or overcome the remaining components of Hamas. Additionally, they are aiming to apprehend the higher-ranking members of the organization. However, they have not experienced any triumph in doing so thus far.

"They'll keep going until they achieve it."

Referring to the repercussions for the Palestinians who have been forced to leave their homes and take refuge in the city, Major General Herbert stated that there doesn't seem to be any apparent destination for them to relocate to.

Currently, there is significant worldwide disapproval regarding Israel's upcoming attack. The IDF appears to lack strategies on how to handle the high number of non-military individuals in the affected area. This was clarified by the speaker.

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Do we have a strategy to remove ordinary people to a safer location?

During an ABC interview aired last Sunday, Mr Netanyahu reaffirmed that Israeli forces would attack Rafah, but he stressed that they were organizing "an elaborate strategy" to ensure that civilians could find a safe place to go.

Rafah - Figure 3
Photo Sky News

"We will accomplish this mission of eliminating the remaining Hamas terrorist groups in Rafah," he declared. Additionally, he stated that their objective is to ensure the safety of the civilian population as they carry out this operation.

On the other hand, some people have expressed uncertainty about the credibility of a scheme to remove non-military individuals from the area, or whether such a scheme is even feasible.

The attack is scheduled to take place in the near future, according to Professor Michael Clarke, a military expert who spoke to Sky News. It could happen within days or it may take several weeks to occur.

He stated: "There is supposedly a plan, but we have yet to witness the details of said plan."

Many individuals believe that this proposal is currently just a catchphrase and lacks substance as an actual proposal.

According to Prof Clarke, using negotiation instead of military action is definitely the optimal method to retrieve additional hostages. This stands true, even after the intervention of Israeli special forces that managed to free two hostages.

Rafah - Figure 4
Photo Sky News

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What are the opinions of other global leaders and policymakers?

According to reports, President Joe Biden of the United States of America has grown increasingly irritated with Prime Minister Netanyahu's lack of change in strategy towards Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry has recorded a shocking amount of 28,000 individuals who have lost their lives due to Israeli military actions. Additionally, Mr. Netanyahu appears unwilling to pursue a lasting peace agreement.

He cautioned Mr Netanyahu on Sunday not to dispatch troops into Rafah without a trustworthy strategy to safeguard innocent civilians. Despite this warning, Mr Netanyahu pledged to move forward with the anticipated land attack.

The foreign secretary of the UK, Lord Cameron, expressed his worries over the current circumstances in Rafah and urged Israel to contemplate their actions thoroughly before proceeding with any further actions.

In the meantime, a couple of authorities from Egypt and a diplomat from a Western country have mentioned that Egypt gave a warning to halt its peace agreement with Israel in case soldiers enter Rafah. Egypt is concerned that conflict could drive Palestinian individuals into the Sinai Peninsula and lead to the blockage of the primary aid supply line in Gaza.

The agreement to end hostilities has been in place for almost half a century and was established through the Camp David Accords, which is a significant factor in maintaining peace in the area.

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