Israeli Ground Forces Enter Rafah

By Dave DeCamp –

Israeli tanks have entered Rafah and appear to be pushing to capture the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing that connects to Egypt, several media outlets have reported.

Heavy airstrikes have been reported in the city as well, with some media reports describing it as a “carpet bombing,” although the scale of destruction and death toll is unclear at this time.

An Egyptian official told The Associated Press that the Israeli operation could be limited and that Israeli forces could soon withdraw. But Egypt is also preparing for the possibility of a major influx of Palestinian refugees entering its territory. According to Middle East EyeCairo estimates between 50,000 and 250,000 Palestinians could flee toward Sinai.

A source told Axios that Israel plans to take control of the Rafah border crossing and monitor all aid that enters Gaza, a sign that it’s seeking long-term control of the area. The military activity near the Rafah crossing will further disrupt aid shipments into the Strip as Palestinians in northern Gaza are facing a “full-blown famine,” according to the UN’s World Food Programme.

Israel’s move on Rafah comes after Hamas said it accepted an Egyptian and Qatari proposal for a ceasefire. Israeli officials quickly rejected the idea that there was a deal and said the proposal included terms Israel did not agree to.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the proposal didn’t meet its “core demands” and said Israel would go ahead with military operations in Rafah. “The War Cabinet unanimously decided this evening 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 office said.

Early on Monday, Israel said it ordered the evacuation of about 100,000 Palestinians from eastern Rafah and warned that “extreme force” would be used in the area. Rafah is estimated to be packed with about 1.4 million Palestinian civilians, the majority of whom are displaced, as the city only had a pre-war population of about 275,000.

Aid groups have slammed the Israeli order since there’s nowhere for the Palestinian civilians to go. Israel suggested the Palestinians go to the al-Mawasi refugee camp on the coast, but the Norwegian Refugee Council said the camp didn’t have the resources to accept the evacuees. Oxfam America pointed to the fact that Israel has bombed so-called “safe zones” in Gaza throughout the past seven months.

US officials have claimed they’re opposed to Israel invading Rafah without a clear plan to protect civilians. But there’s no sign the Biden administration is putting any real pressure on Netanyahu as US weapons shipments to Israel continue to flow.

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