Loading your search results


Peace and Conflict

Israeli forces take control of Rafah crossing amid hope for a hostage deal | Update May 7th 2024

Israeli forces take control of Rafah crossing amid hope for a hostage deal via BICom

What’s happening:  The IDF has begun a precise operation in eastern Rafah, confirming this morning they have “obtained operational control of the Gazan side of the crossing.”

  • Ahead of the operation on Sunday morning, messages through flyers, SMS texts, phone calls and media broadcasts were relayed to the residents of eastern neighbourhoods of Rafah to “temporarily evacuate to the expanded humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi, where the IDF has facilitated the expansion of field hospitals, tents, and an increase in water, food, and medical supplies.”
  • Compounding the necessity of the operation, on Sunday a barrage of mortars were fired from the area of the Rafah Crossing toward the area of the Kerem Shalom Crossing killing four IDF soldiers and injuring several
  • While last night six rockets were fired towards Sderot. Two were intercepted, while four landed in open areas. Shrapnel from an interception fell on a house causing damage, but no injuries. 
  • Since the launch of this operation, the IDF say they have targeted “military structures, underground infrastructure, and additional terrorist infrastructure from which Hamas operated in the Rafah area. Since the start of the operational activity, approximately 20 terrorists have been eliminated and three operational tunnel shafts have been located. No injuries were reported.”
  • Last night the Prime Minister’s Office announced that the War Cabinet, “unanimously decided Israel will continue its operation in Rafah, in order to apply military pressure on Hamas so as to advance the release of our hostages and achieve the other objectives of the war.”
  • The unanimity of the War Cabinet, which includes Gantz and Eisenkot, is significant in the context of recent political tension. 
  • At the same time relating to the hostage negotiations, the War Cabinet stated that “While the Hamas proposal is far from meeting Israel's core demands, Israel will dispatch a ranking delegation to Egypt in an effort to maximize the possibility of reaching an agreement on terms acceptable to Israel.”
  • IDF Spokesperson Hagari added, “We are studying every response, every answer, with the utmost seriousness, and we are exhausting every possibility for negotiation to bring the hostages back to their homes as a central goal, as quickly as possible. At the same time, we are continuing to press forward.”

Context: Rafah hosts four of Hamas’ remaining battalions with the long anticipated operation focused on dismantling its command and control as well as securing the crossing and the Gaza – Egyptian border. The border, referred to as the Philadelphia Corridor is considered essential to prevent weapons smuggling and future rearmament by Hamas.

  • Hamas also profits financially from taxation at the crossing and the smuggling routes.
  • Regarding efforts to release the hostages, the terms of exactly what Hamas has agreed to remain unclear.  Israel is concerned that this was a Hamas ruse to place blame on Israel. However according to Reuters Hamas has agreed to the Israel proposal without substantive changes.
  • Some view the operation in Rafah as a strong lever incentivising Hamas to agree to a deal at the last minute.
  • Arab media reports the contours of the deal would include the release of 33 hostages, among them women and children (aged under 19), elderly (over 50), ailing and injured. According to Al-Akhbar, the Lebanese newspaper, "If the number of living Israeli abductees does not reach 33, the number will be completed with corpses from the same categories of this phase. In return - Israel will release all those arrested from the Gaza Strip after October 7 (women and children under the age of 19) this must be done in the fifth week of this phase.” 
  • In return Israel is expected to release 900- 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of whom will be terrorists convicted of murder. The temporary cessation in fighting will last six weeks and Israel will allow for an expansion of humanitarian aid to enter the Strip.
  • The second stage would last an additional six weeks and would see arrangements for restoring “sustainable calm” in the Strip implemented before the release of further (alive male) hostages and Palestinian security prisoners.
  • In the third stage, the bodies of dead hostages would be released in exchange for the bodies of dead Palestinians. A five-year reconstruction program for the Gaza Strip will also be launched.
  • Last week US Secretary of State Blinken described the Israeli offer as, “extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel.”
  • Hamas has long insisted on a deal to end the fighting completely. Israel will only counter this suggestion if they can reach an agreement to release all the hostages. It is thought the term “sustainable calm” is satisfactory for both sides.      
  • If a deal is ultimately agreed, the Rafah military operation will be halted. Netanyahu will then face political pressure from his right-wing cabinet members who see completing this operation as essential for Israel’s war aims.
  • The atmosphere in Israel remains fraught. Last night saw large demonstrations by hostages’ families and their supporters. Thousands of people blocked roads in Tel Aviv, whilst hundreds also protested in other areas across the country to plead  / encourage the government to do a deal.   
  • The northern border has also seen extended fighting. Over the weekend over 100 rockets were fired out of southern Lebanon towards the Galilee and Golan.  The Israel Air Force attacked numerous Hezbollah positions across the border.
  • Two soldiers killed when a Hezbollah attack drone struck a military post near Metulla in northern Israel Monday afternoon.             
  • The Kerem Shalom Crossing was recently reopened in order to expand providing humanitarian aid to Gaza. As a result of the mortar fire and the fatalities the crossing was closed.

Looking ahead: Israeli negotiators are heading to Cairo to study the details of the Hamas response.   

  • Similarly, CIA Director William Burns who was in Qatar (and was expected to visit Israel) will also instead travel to Cairo.
  • If the negotiators can reach an understanding Israel’s Security Cabinet will convene and vote on the proposal. 

via BICom