Loading your search results


Peace and Conflict

Israel continues Rafah operation with US understanding | Update 22nd May 2024

Israel continues Rafah operation with US understanding via BICom

What’s happened: Israel is continuing its operations in Hamas’s last stronghold in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, and at a scale with which the Biden Administration, previously opposed to any operation there, is satisfied.

  • Israeli media reports US officials saying that Israel has listened to US concerns and refined its plans accordingly.
  • The IDF is reporting that almost a million of the estimated 1.4 million Gazans previously residing in the city have left for other parts of the Strip.
  • According to Palestinian sources, the IDF this morning dropped flyers over Rafah announcing the expansion of safe zones to which displaced persons can move. Many residents have moved north to tent cities which have been erected in Khan Yunis and Al Mawasi.
  • According to the IDF, in Rafah troops continue to “carry out targeted raids on the terrorist infrastructure and buildings from which Hamas terrorists fired at our forces. During this activity, the soldiers eliminated dozens of terrorists in eastern Rafah who tried to approach our forces.”
  • IDF troops “carried out an operation to destroy terrorist infrastructure. During the operation, the soldiers searched a building and located many weapons including protective equipment, explosives, weapons, anti-tank missiles, equipment and tools intended for breaching fences.”
  • “During searches in the area, the soldiers of the battalion located a tunnel shaft containing a weapons warehouse with short-range anti-tank missiles, grenades, weapons, and explosives. This warehouse was intended to be used to carry out terrorist attacks against our forces. The tunnel shaft and the weapons were destroyed.”
  • On a visit to Jabaliya, a city in the northern Strip which the IDF had previously left but to which it has now returned, IDF Chief of Staff Halevi said “we are dismantling the military wing of Hamas. We want to bring our hostages home alive, and we want to bring those who, unfortunately, are no longer alive back for burial in Israel. These are very, very important missions. The message is that even if there was a place we didn't reach last time, and now we are reaching it, no place, no matter how many explosives they put in the walls and how many shafts they booby-trapped, no place will withstand an offensive by an IDF combat team."
  • In Jabaliya, the IDF says that raids were carried out on terrorist infrastructure in the agricultural areas. “During the raids, the soldiers located many weapons including vests, an FN MAG machine gun, hand grenades, explosives, and intelligence materials. During extensive searches and guided by intelligence, the troops arrived at a mosque where they located missiles and rocket launchers, which were destroyed.”
  • In Khan Yunis, the Israeli Air Force struck and killed Hamas terrorist Ahmed Yasser Alkara. Alkara took part in the October 7th Massacre in communities in southern Israel and was said by the IDF to be “a significant anti-tank missile operative who carried out attacks on IDF troops during the war.” The IDF says that this operation was delayed when a child was observed near Alkara’s position, and only resumed once the child had moved away.
  • In another operation, says the IDF, “IAF fighter jets directed by intelligence eliminated five Hamas terrorists operating from inside the Faami Aljerjawi School in Daraj Tuffah in the northern Gaza Strip. Among the terrorists that were eliminated were Fadi Salim, Head of Propaganda in Hamas’ Gaza Brigade, as well as three Hamas intelligence operatives and an additional Nukhba terrorist.”
  • Meanwhile, COGAT says that Israel’s facilitation of the entry of humanitarian aid into the Strip continues. The IDF says that 450 humanitarian aid trucks were transferred through the Kerem Shalom Crossing and the Erez West Crossing yesterday, with 650 truckloads waiting for collection and distribution by international aid agencies on the Gazan side of the crossings.

Context: The US had previously referred to an Israeli operation in Rafah as a “red line”. However, the thus far limited – what the IDF calls “precise” – operations in the city appear to have assuaged the Biden Administration’s concerns, to a degree.

  • US reassessment is thought be based on the movement out of civilians and the increased flow of humanitarian aid.
  • Israel continues to stress that victory in its war with Hamas depends upon defeating its remaining battalions in Rafah, capturing its senior leadership, and securing the border crossing to prevent the smuggling of weapons.
  • A high priority also remains the recovery of the remaining hostages, many of whom are thought to be held in Rafah. The government’s hope remains that pressure exerted on Hamas by the Rafah operation also makes a hostage deal more likely.
  • In order to achieve this, the IDF is currently deploying its highest number of troops across Gaza since January.
  • Humanitarian agencies continue to warn of the critical shortage of aid reaching the Gaza population.
  • The IDF cites failures within Gaza itself as being the cause. Aid, it says, is “awaiting distribution due to the lack of logistical capabilities and manpower gaps in the international aid agencies, leading to the accumulation of humanitarian aid at the crossings.”
  • A senior White House official yesterday criticised Egypt for obstructions on its end. “We do not believe that aid should be held back for any reason whatsoever. Kerem Shalom is open. The Israelis have it open. And that aid should be going through Kerem Shalom,” they said.
  • The Egyptians closed the crossing to aid earlier this month after Israel began operating in Rafah and assumed control of the Gazan side of the crossing.
  • The Israeli government also says that Hamas is disrupting the effective distribution of aid, either siphoning supplies off for themselves or in one instance detaining and holding Jordanian trucks. In the absence of non-Hamas affiliated Palestinian partners, aid distribution challenges are likely to continue.
  • Far-right members of the Israeli cabinet and Security Cabinet have made no secret of their desire to see Israeli civilian resettlement in Gaza.
  • Any such move is forcefully opposed by more moderate government voices. Last week, Defence Minister Gallant attempted to rule out not only civilian resettlement, but any post-war Israeli administration of the Strip whatsoever.
  • Gallant said he would not serve in a government which sought to impose Israeli rule and called on Netanyahu to move swiftly to a plan for a post-war Palestinian administration.

Looking ahead: Footage will be released later of the October 7th kidnapping of five female IDF spotters from the Nahal Oz base. The families of all five have agreed to the screening.

  • Prime Minister Netanyahu has ruled out Israeli resettlement of Gaza. Such a move was “never in the cards,” Netanyahu claimed to CNN, “and I said so openly. Some of my constituents are not happy about it, but that’s my position.”
  • Instead, Netanyahu called for “sustained demilitarisation of Gaza,” “a civilian administration that is run by Gazans who are neither Hamas nor committed to our destruction,” and “a reconstruction of Gaza, if possible, done by the moderate Arab states and the international community.”
  • The prime minister also once more moved to rule out the formal involvement of the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the future governing force in the Strip. Despite others’ pushing for this, he said he would not allow an organisation to assume control which “still teaches its children to seek the destruction of Israel. That’s not my position. I want a different future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
  • Despite US efforts, moves towards normalisation with Saudi Arabia appear to have stalled, with Netanyahu seemingly unwilling to meet Saudi demands over the creation of a Palestinian state.

via BICom