War in the Middle East: Israel apparently bows to US pressure in Rafah

War in the Middle East: Israel apparently bows to US pressure in Rafah

The USA has been warning Israel for months about a large-scale ground offensive in Rafah – apparently with success. However, the situation remains catastrophic for civilians. The news at a glance.

According to media reports, Israel has adapted its controversial military action in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip to the demands of the US ally for limited operations. “It’s fair to say that the Israelis have updated their plans. They have taken into account many of the concerns that we raised,” the Times of Israel quoted a senior US government official as saying.

The Washington Post had also previously reported that after discussions with the US government, Israel had decided to abandon plans for a major offensive in the city that borders Egypt and instead proceed on a more limited scale. An earlier plan to send two Army divisions to the city will not be pursued, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

Food distribution suspended in Rafah

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) temporarily suspended food distribution in Rafah. The UN agency cited delivery bottlenecks and the security situation as reasons. According to media reports, Egypt is withholding humanitarian aid because of Israel’s actions in Rafah. The border crossing there, through which aid previously reached Gaza, is closed after the Israeli army took over. Egypt has insisted that deliveries cannot resume until the Palestinian side of the crossing is back under Palestinian control, according to the Times of Israel.

Reports: Egypt is holding back aid deliveries

The USA tried to convince Cairo that the relief supplies accumulated in Egypt could then at least be transported to Gaza via the Israeli Kerem Shalom crossing, the newspaper wrote. But according to Politico, Egypt has stopped all deliveries through this crossing point. After the Israelis took over the Palestinian side of the border crossing in Rafah, the Egyptians did not want to appear to be their accomplices by channeling aid through Karem Shalom instead, it was said. Kerem Shalom is about three kilometers from Rafah.

Egypt’s attitude is also complicating negotiations on a ceasefire, Politico wrote. If Cairo allows aid deliveries, this could defuse tensions and possibly help to resume negotiations, it said. Israel wants to destroy the last Hamas battalions suspected to be in Rafah. After more than seven months of war, Rafah is the last half-intact city in the sealed-off Gaza Strip.

The USA opposes a major Israeli ground offensive there. Israel’s army began a ground operation in the east of the city two weeks ago. According to the “Times of Israel”, the latest estimates by the Israeli military indicate that around 950,000 Palestinians have left the area since then. Currently, around 300,000 to 400,000 civilians are said to be there. Before the Israeli army began its invasion, more than a million internally displaced people from other parts of the Gaza Strip had sought protection in Rafah.

Problems with delivery of relief supplies via temporary port

Meanwhile, there are also problems with aid deliveries that reach Gaza via a makeshift landing stage run by the US military. The US government defended itself against criticism that distribution was slow. “It’s also important to remember that this is a combat zone and a complex operation,” said Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder.

For example, they are working on identifying alternative routes for transporting relief supplies on land. Ryder emphasized that the US military is not involved in the distribution of supplies. According to UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, 16 trucks left the floating pier on Saturday. “But 11 of those trucks never made it to the warehouse. Crowds of people had stopped the trucks at various points along the way.”

Netanyahu: No plans for Israeli settlements in Gaza

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured that Israel has no plans to build settlements in the Gaza Strip after the war. “This was never planned,” he emphasized in an interview with the US news channel CNN. As soon as Hamas is defeated, sustainable demilitarization of Gaza must be achieved, said Netanyahu. “We want a civilian administration run by citizens of Gaza who are neither affiliated with nor committed to Hamas.”

The Washington Post previously quoted unnamed Israeli defense officials as saying their strategy calls for a Palestinian security force. This would consist partly of the administrative staff of the Palestinian Authority and be overseen by a governing council made up of Palestinian figures – with the support of moderate Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Unlike Prime Minister Netanyahu, some Israeli officials accepted that this administrative board would be connected to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

A few days ago, Israel’s Defense Minister Joav Galant criticized the government under Netanyahu for lacking a plan for who should govern after the war in the Gaza Strip. Hamas can only be permanently ousted from power if Palestinian representatives take control in Gaza, accompanied by international actors who create a governing alternative to Hamas rule, Galant said. Asked whether this meant bringing the West Bank Palestinian Authority into Gaza, Netanyahu said: “I am clearly against exchanging Hamastan for Fatahstan.” In the West Bank, the comparatively moderate Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is the leading party.

Minister orders camera returned to news agency

A few hours after the AP news agency’s equipment was confiscated in Israel, Information Minister Shlomo Karhi ordered the camera to be returned. The Israeli politician wrote this on Platform

The minister had previously justified the seizure of the equipment and the interruption of a live feed in Sderot, southern Israel, by saying that AP had illegally passed on recordings to the Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera – whose reporting is a thorn in the side of the Israeli government. A new law allows the government to block international media companies from working in Israel if it considers them a threat to national security.

Source: Stern

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