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Israel’s Rafah attack is not quite what it seems

Nothing about the attack on Rafah is quite as it appears. Here are the important points necessary to understand Israel's latest manoeuvre.
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Internally displaced Palestinians leave with their belongings following an evacuation order issued by the Israeli army in Rafah on 8 May 2024 (Image: EPA/MOHAMMED SABER).

Published: 9 May 2024

Last updated: 9 May 2024

Rafah: The crossing, not the city

The headlines and media narrative about Israel going "in to Rafah" are wrong. So far at least, the Israeli operation has been focused on the Rafah border crossing outside the city of Rafah.

The narrative, at least within Israel, serves Netanyahu who has been under fire from his far-right coalition partners to launch the Rafah operation. This isn't the operation they have been calling for against the Hamas brigade in Rafah, but for now it's something.

What's the point of the operation?

Netanyahu and his supporters have spoken of the Rafah operation as the necessary final step to "destroying Hamas" and achieving "total victory".

From Netanyahu's perspective, he's buying time with his increasingly angry coalition. From the IDF’s perspective, capturing the Rafah crossing is worthwhile as it cuts off Hamas' main channel to the outside world.

But while the crossing is a strategic asset, it can also quickly become a liability.

Where does Israel go next?

Once the IDF secures the crossing, it controls around a third of the Philadelphi Corridor, the route along the border between Gaza and Egypt. But beneath the remaining two-thirds of the corridor lie more smuggling tunnels. To the east is Hamas' Rafah brigade, hiding in the city and launching rockets and mortars.

Does the IDF go in further or hunker down? To remain static puts the forces in a vulnerable position. What about the crossing which is one of the two main entrances for humanitarian aid. Who will operate it?

Ultimately the decision on where to go next will be up to the politicians.


Nothing about Israel's Rafah attack and the cease-fire talks is quite what it seems (Haaretz)


Bowen: Netanyahu knows Hamas survival amounts to his own defeat (BBC)
After months of on-off hard talking between belligerents and mediators, the time has come for hard decisions.


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