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War in the Middle East: Israel moves into Rafah and takes over the border with Egypt

War in the Middle East: Israel moves into Rafah and takes over the border with Egypt

Israel’s allies have been warning against military action in Rafah for months. Israeli tanks are now rolling into parts of the city and also on the border with Egypt. The news at a glance.

In a dramatic move, Israeli troops advanced into parts of the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip overnight. The only border crossing into Egypt in Rafah on the Palestinian side is now under Israeli control, a senior Israeli military official said. According to Palestinian eyewitnesses, Israeli troops were also spotted on the so-called Philadelphi Corridor – a border strip between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

It is the first time that Israeli forces have entered the area since Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip almost two decades ago. Israel assumes that weapons are entering the Gaza Strip via the border with Egypt. Army video footage showed tanks rolling into the Rafah border area. A large Israeli national flag flew on one of the tanks.

The operation fueled concerns about a serious offensive in the city, which is overcrowded with refugees. Most civilians and representatives of international aid organizations had already left the area on Monday after the army called for evacuation, the military said.

Confusion over Hamas declaration of ceasefire

Shortly before the troops advanced, Hamas declared its approval of a negotiation proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza war on Monday evening. However, this draft does not meet Israeli demands. The Israeli military said it was studying the proposal. Israel will send a delegation to Cairo for further negotiations. There, negotiators Egypt, Qatar and the USA continue to strive for a ceasefire, the release of hostages and prisoners and the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

According to the Islamists, the draft ceasefire accepted by Hamas includes three 42-day phases. The first phase includes, among other things, the release of 33 hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. According to Hamas, these could be both living and dead hostages. Furthermore, a temporary cessation of fighting, a gradual partial withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip, freedom of movement for unarmed Palestinians in the coastal area and the increased import of humanitarian aid are planned. The second phase amounts to the release of all remaining hostages, the complete withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza and a permanent ceasefire. In the third phase, a three to five year process to rebuild Gaza will begin.

Israel quickly classified the proposal as a deception by Hamas and an attempt to stop the operation in Rafah. It was apparently a draft drawn up by Egypt and Qatar, which Israel had not yet agreed to. The Jewish state is demanding the release of living hostages in the first phase and has not yet agreed to a complete end to the war.

Israel wants to continue to destroy Hamas and end the terrorist organization’s rule in the Gaza Strip. Rafah is considered Hamas’s last bastion, and the organization’s top leadership and hostages are believed to be there. The Gaza war was triggered by the unprecedented massacre with more than 1,200 deaths that terrorists from Hamas and other groups carried out in Israel on October 7th. Israel responded with an offensive in the Gaza Strip that has so far killed 34,789 Palestinians and injured more than 78,000 others, according to the Hamas-controlled health authority.

Netanyahu: Hamas wanted to prevent Rafah deployment by voting yes to the proposal

According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hamas tried to torpedo the Israeli offensive in Rafah by agreeing to a new negotiation proposal. “This did not happen,” Netanyahu said in a video message. According to Israel’s head of government, military pressure on Hamas was already a prerequisite for the return of those abducted from Israel in the previous agreement in November. The Islamists’ current offer is far from Israel’s “necessary requirements.” This also includes ensuring the security of his country.

Netanyahu said he had instructed the Israeli negotiating team, which is currently in Cairo, to stick to Israel’s conditions.

Egypt condemns Israel’s military action in Rafah

Egypt strongly condemned the Israeli army’s advance in Rafah. The Foreign Ministry in Cairo sees this as a “dangerous escalation that threatens the lives of more than a million Palestinians.” Egypt calls on the Israeli side to exercise maximum restraint and not to play with fire. Israel’s neighboring state fears, among other things, that a large-scale offensive in Rafah could lead to a rush of Palestinians across the border.

The border crossing from the Gaza Strip to Egypt is in Rafah, and it is also an important gateway for humanitarian aid deliveries to the sealed-off coastal strip. Both border traffic and the import of humanitarian aid have been suspended for the time being. Meanwhile, the military wing of Hamas attacked the Israeli border crossing at Kerem Shalom again on Tuesday with rockets and mortar shells. Just on Sunday, the Kassam Brigades killed four Israeli soldiers in a rocket attack on Kerem Shalom. Kerem Shalom, the most important border crossing for the delivery of aid from Israel to the Gaza Strip, was also closed for the time being.

Israel: “Precise anti-terror operation on a very limited scale”

The Israeli military representative said of the current developments that it was a “precise anti-terror operation on a very limited scale.” Special troops searched the Rafah crossing for terrorists. There are indications that Hamas has misused the Gaza side of the crossing for terrorist purposes.

The news portal Axios reported, citing Israeli government officials, that the deployment of tanks and ground units east of Rafah was to be understood as the first phase of the offensive. The takeover of the Rafah border crossing was not only intended to demonstrate Hamas’ loss of power in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians with no connection to the Islamists should then be involved in the distribution of aid coming from Egypt to the isolated coastal area.

UN and USA warn of ground offensive

The United Nations humanitarian agencies condemned Israel’s advance in Rafah. There are no safe routes to the north for the civilian population and no safe havens with sufficient sanitation and food supplies. These are basic requirements for evacuations, said UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani on Tuesday in Geneva. If these are not met, it is a case of forced relocations, which could constitute war crimes.

Israel on Monday asked around 100,000 Palestinians to leave the eastern part of Rafah for security reasons. The affected residents should go to the Al-Mawasi area near the coast, where their supplies of food, water and medicine can be guaranteed.

The US government does not currently believe that this is the start of a large-scale offensive by the Israeli military. A US government representative announced this on Monday evening (local time) in Washington. However, the American side’s serious concerns about such a military offensive in the densely populated area have not changed.

According to the United Nations, a total of 1.2 million people are currently in Rafah, where only around 250,000 people otherwise lived. In the past few days and weeks, the US government and other allies of Israel have repeatedly warned of the consequences of military action in Rafah.

Guterres: Decisive moment for Palestinians and Israelis

After the Israeli army advanced into the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on both parties to the conflict to reach a last-minute agreement. “We are at a crucial moment for the Palestinian and Israeli people and for the fate of the entire region,” Guterres said in New York. He said he was concerned about renewed Israeli military activity in the area. “Make no mistake – a major attack on Rafah would be a human catastrophe,” the United Nations chief continued.

Even Israel’s allies are clear that “an attack on Rafah would be a strategic mistake, a political catastrophe and a humanitarian nightmare.” In order to prevent this, the Israeli government and the Islamist Hamas must now “show political courage” and reach an agreement in their negotiations, Guterres said. He emphasized that this is the only way to stabilize the region, which otherwise threatens to explode. He also called on the Israeli government to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and to reopen recently closed border crossings for aid supplies. Fuel in the area will run out by evening.

Source: Stern

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