As Israel Prepares To Invade Rafah Any Day Now, Here's What's You Need To Know

Benjamin Netanyahu said it is "out of the question" to stop the war before achieving all of Israel's goals.
Civil defence team stands in front of destroyed building in Rafah, Gaza.
Civil defence team stands in front of destroyed building in Rafah, Gaza.
Anadolu via Getty Images

Fears Israel could invade the Palestinian region of Rafah are skyrocketing this week, even as diplomatic efforts persevere.

UN officials have repeatedly warned of the tragedy that will come with invading the enclave where an estimated 1.5m displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

But Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his plan to invade the city, no matter how Hamas responds to his government’s recent truce offer.

He said: “The idea that we will stop the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question.

“We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate Hamas’s battalions there – with or without a deal, to achieve the total victory.”

The UN relief chief, Martin Griffiths, has warned that a ground offensive is “on the immediate horizon”.

Meanwhile, pro-Palestine protests around the world have escalated recently, with more student demonstrations expected in the UK.

Protests among students in the US have even turned violent amid police intervention.

Why would an invasion of Rafah would be pivotal moment?

Rafah is Gaza’s southernmost city and more than a million of the region’s residents have sought shelter there amid Israel’s invasion.

According to Israel, Hamas fighters are hiding out there among the civilians – and so it believes they need to be removed.

The UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said it would be an “unbearable escalation” if Israel were to invade Rafah, especially considering Palestinians are already facing food, fuel and medicine shortages.

Guterres called for states with influence over Israel “to do everything in their power” to prevent an Israeli assault on Rafah.

The US, Israel’s primary ally, has also said it is against such an invasion unless Israel has a credible plan to evacuate and protect those still in the city.

How did we get here?

The Palestinian militants Hamas killed 1,200 people on Israeli soil in October, and took a further 240 hostage.

Israel declared war on the group and soon began a land invasion of Gaza – the Palestinian territory where Hamas are in control.

The local health ministry estimates that 35,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began – it says around two-thirds of the dead are women and children.

The war follows decades of rising tensions between Palestinians and Israelis over land.

What is the international community doing?

The US, France, Egypt and Qatar are attempting to negotiate a truce between the two warring factions.

According to Reuters, Israel is offering to free thousands Palestinians jailed in Israel for the release of fewer than 40 hostages.

The truce would include a “period of sustained calm” of 40 days, although Hamas have called for a permanent ceasefire.

The UK’s foreign secretary David Cameron said the proposal is “generous”, adding: “I hope Hamas do take this deal and frankly, all the pressure in the world and all the eyes in the world should be on them today saying, ‘take that deal,’.”

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said this week that only Hamas are stopping a truce from going ahead.

He claimed: “Hamas has before it a proposal that is extraordinarily, extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel.

“The only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas. They have to decide and they have to decide quickly.

“I’m hopeful that they will make the right decision.”

Elsewhere, Arab states are also calling for Israel to outline a route to statehood for Palestine in exchange for “normalised” relations with its neighbour – and according to Saudi Arabia, they are close to a deal with the US over just that.


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