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Shadow of Invasion on Rafah: What Does Netanyahu Have in Head?

Monday 29 April 2024
Shadow of Invasion on Rafah: What Does Netanyahu Have in Head?

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Alwaght- As the Israeli officials ramp up their threats of invasion of Rafah, the shadow of war imposes itself on the southern Gaza city.

Any ground or air invasion can lead to catastrophic outcomes given the presence of over 1.5 million displaced civilians from across the besieged Gaza Strip in this region, especially in the refugee camps.

Despite that, the Israeli officials have not yet backed down from their threats and show themselves to be preparing for the attack.

The Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari on April 21 claimed that after weeks of negotiations with the Egyptian side about attacking the border city of Rafah, necessary agreements have been reached with Cairo, and the Israeli chief of general staff has laid the plans for operation on the southern front.

Three days ago, Israeli Army Radio reported that the military deployed reserve forces including additional armored vehicles and artillery, around Gaza in show of readiness to invade the last shelter of displaced Gazans.

This radio station quoted Major General Dotan, the commander of the 932nd battalion of the Israeli army, as saying that with the end of the military operation in the Nasirat refugee camp: "We are going to Rafah."

On the other hand, over the past few days, Rafah has been heavily bombarded by Israeli warplanes, the most obvious of which was the attack on the Al-Shaburah refugee camp in the center of the city and the destruction of the Al-Farooq Mosque in the same area, and the bombing of a residential unit in Khirbat Al-Adas in the east.

Also, the Israelis have ordered about 40,000 tents from China to shelter displaced Palestinians after Rafah aggression, which are being received from Ashdod port, and it has been announced that they will begin the evacuation of Rafah civilians after the Passover holidays that end on April 30. 

These developments took place after the US House of Representatives approved $13 billion in military aid to Israel, which Hamas considered "a license and a green light for the hardline Zionist government to continue its brutal aggression against our people."

Big deception of safe zone 

As part of preparations for the ground operation in Rafah, Netanyahu government has proposed the creation of a "humanitarian safe zone".

On April 22, Israel television reported that the army was expanding a "safe zone" in the Gaza Strip in preparation for a planned military ground operation in the city of Rafah.

According to the Israeli media outlets, this area will extend from Al-Mawasi town to the south along the coastal strip to the outskirts of Nusirat camp, and this space with 5 areas can accommodate about 1 million displaced people.

The Israeli occupation army claims that at the same time as this action, it will send up to 500 trucks of humanitarian aid to the safe zone daily. 

But the Israeli claim has been criticized by the United Nations, which has previously said that it is "impossible" to create so-called safe areas for civilians to allow them to escape in the midst of Israeli bombardment. 

Last December, UNICEF spokesman James Elder told reporters in Geneva via video conference from Cairo that the so-called safe zones are "illogical and impossible, and I think the authorities are aware of that."

Volker Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also confirmed that the Israeli regime's proposal to create a safe zone in the south of the Gaza Strip is "untenable." 

"The current Israeli proposal for a so-called ‘safe zone’ is untenable: the zone is neither safe nor feasible for the number of people in need. I refer you to yesterday's statement by the Inter Agency Standing Committee: civilians must be protected throughout Gaza, wherever they are," he said during a UN meeting discussing Gaza situation on February 16.

The track record of the Israeli army's performance in the past 7 months shows that this regime made civilians the main targets of military action during the war and attacked civilian areas protected under international conventions, such as hospitals, shelters, schools, churches, and mosques. Actually, no place in Gaza Strip has been immune to the Israeli bombardment.

Rafah with an area of 56 square kilometers had a population of 250,000 before the start of the war. But now, with the presence of over 1.4 million Palestinians from various cities , it has become highly dense and no safe area can accommodate this large population.

At the beginning of the war, the Israelis declared Rafah a safe zone for civilians, but during this period, even the groups of hungry refugees who gathered to receive the meager humanitarian aid were not safe from airstrikes, and terrible crimes such as the Al-Rashid Street massacre took place in this part of Rafah.

Netanyahu motivations

Despite the preparations and threats that signal the battle in Rafah is imminent, there is still no consensus among analysts about Netanyahu's motivations and planning for the coming days, and there are those who call the Israeli threats merely "psychological warfare" to turn it into a trump card for the negotiating table.

This scenario believes that amid growing global opposition and the reduction of political and military support from European governments to Tel Aviv, Netanyahu and his cabal in the hard-line cabinet do not see possible a new war with unknown consequences for civilians and are just seeking to free Israeli prisoners in the negotiations, while making least concessions to Hamas and other Palestinian resistance factions. Therefore, the propaganda pressure wants to insinuate that there are two options before the Palestinians: "either surrender or go under attack".

On Sunday night, Netanyahu said he will step up political and military pressures on Hamas because this is "the only way to free our hostages."

"We have released 124 of our abductees so far and we are obliged to return all of them to their homes, whether alive or dead. The prison of Hamas, the suffering of them and their families breaks our hearts and this makes us more determined to bring them back," he further said.

In his X account, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Saturday that if a deal on prisoners is struck, Rafah attack will be posponed.

From another aspect, in the past months, the Egyptian parties have clearly stated their opposition to the operation in Rafah city many times, and this contradicts the claims of the Israeli media. One of the issues that the media close to the Egyptian government have mentioned many times is the possibility of revoking the peace agreement between the two sides in the event of such an attack, because Rafah invasion can unleash an influx of refugees to Egyptian borders. 

But despite the global acknowledgment of the disastrous consequences of the invasion of Rafah and even the possibility of the conflict spreading in the region, the experience of the past months shows that the most radical Israeli cabinet always has its own calculations. 

Firstly, many think that Iran's punitive Operation True Promise has dealt a heavy blow to the political credit of Netanyahu and other cabinet hardliners and meanwhile the opposition is stepping up its pressure on the PM. Opposition leader Yair Lapid in recent days has launched a new attack on Netanyahu, accusing him of weakening the Israeli deterrence and calling for talks to return the prisoners. 

In the meantime, the attack on Rafah, in addition to creating a new propaganda space to reduce the effects of Iran's attack, can help Netanyahu get rid of the hostage issue. Pressures of the families of hostages have caused another wave of daily street protests against Netanyahu cabinet. Meanwhile, Rafah invasion can either lead to freedom of prisoners which will be a score for the PM or in general lead to death of prisoners and Netanyahu can hope to get a justification to mobilize the public behind continuation of war to escape concessions to Hamas. 

Additionally, forced migration of Gaza people is another Netanyahu motivation for Rafah operation. The experience of the people of Gaza from the word safe zone often evokes an unsafe zone. Discovery of mass graves around Shifa Hospital bears witness to this reality. Essentially, one of the main objectives of Netanyahu since the beginning of war was the forced migration of Gazans to Egypt and Jordan, but this scenario failed to see the light. Construction of a port on Gaza coast is another project of Tel Aviv, indeed not for humanitarian aid as the Americans claim, but for facilitation of sending people of this region to Europe. Therefore, amid insistence of Gazans on staying in Gaza, Rafah attack under the guise of finding the prisoners is an option the Israelis can use to force the Palestinians out of their lands. 

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