IDF is preparing a ground offensive on the Rafah where there are 1.5 milion civilians

Israel's plans for a ground invasion have drawn international criticism, with aid agencies and key Israeli allies the US and the EU calling for restraint

by Sededin Dedovic
IDF is preparing a ground offensive on the Rafah where there are 1.5 milion civilians
© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

On Sunday night, under the cover of widespread airstrikes, Israel launched an attack on the town of Rafah in the besieged Gaza Strip. Israel announced that it had freed two Israeli-Argentine hostages kidnapped from Israel in a Hamas-led attack on October 7 during the operation.

Rafah is the last refuge where Palestinian refugees, mostly women and children, have gathered, and they have nowhere to go, they are simply pressed against the wall to await their fate. Local health authorities reported that at least 67 Palestinian civilians were killed in the airstrikes, which destroyed several residential buildings and at least one mosque.

Argentine President Javier Milei expressed his gratitude to Israel through social networks for the release of two hostages who have dual citizenship without mentioning the brutal Israeli attacks on a refugee camp with a million people living in tents without water, food or electricity.

Palestinian children hold placards during a march demanding an end to the war and their right to live, education and play on Feb© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

In an interview with the American television network ABC, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Sunday his intention to defeat the remaining terrorist battalions in Rafah, which he said was the last bastion of Hamas.

Netanyahu wanted to tell us that a land invasion of the city on the border with Egypt will be inevitable. Interestingly, this is the fourth destination so far that Palestinian refugees go to, after arriving at any camp, the IDF's claims would suddenly appear that high-ranking Hamas officials are hiding there and that the IDF is attacking there and the refugees are moving on.

This time, Palestinian women and children have nowhere else to go, Egypt does not allow them to enter their country, and the majority of Palestinians do not want to leave their ancient home. Israel's plans for a ground invasion have drawn international criticism, with aid agencies and key allies calling for restraint.

If a company offensive starts on Rafa, it will be equal to a massacre. Hamas launched an attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023. According to Israeli estimates, in attacks by militant groups, which the United States, Germany, Israel, the EU and other countries qualify as a terrorist organization.

In addition, Hamas kidnapped around 230 hostages and took them to the Gaza Strip, which the group has ruled since 2007. In response, Israel launched an air and ground offensive against Hamas in the territory. The operation has so far resulted in the deaths of over 28,000 Palestinians, according to Hamas' health ministry, and approximately 1.9 million Palestinian civilians have been forced to flee their homes.

More than 85 percent of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip are now internally displaced, according to the UN. The city is more destroyed than Dresden in 1945, and the biggest problem is that the refugees have nowhere to go.

No hospital, school, mosque, church, kindergarten are safe. Israel has destroyed almost all the major hospitals in the Gaza Strip, stating that the tunnels used by Hamas are located there, although this turned out to be false.

Amnesty International UK protesters hold placards outside Downing Street to raise attention to the plight of Palestinian civilia© Carl Court / Getty Images

Since October 7, Israel has steadily expanded its ground operations in Gaza southward, leaving Rafah as one of the last refuges for more than half of the enclave's 2.3 million residents fleeing the violence.

The population of the city, which previously numbered almost 300,000 inhabitants, has grown to one million and now it is assumed that there are currently about one and a half million civilians, women and children. Many refugees live in improvised UN camps and shelters.

Rafah is located along the Egyptian border, near the only remaining border crossing in blockaded Gaza that is still partially passable. Egypt has recently stepped up security on its borders out of concern that the Israeli operation could trigger a mass migration of Gazans into its territory.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri warned on Sunday that further escalation in Rafah would have "catastrophic consequences", as his government threatened to pull out of a decades-old peace deal with Israel if the ground offensive continued.

The existence of safe zones in the north

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that Palestinians in Gaza who want to leave Rafah will be granted safe passage to the area we have cleared north of Rafah. "We are working on a detailed plan," he said.

Details of this plan have not yet been released. It remains unclear where such "safe zones" would be located to ensure safe passage and whether these areas would be suitable for housing hundreds of thousands of refugees. We have seen hundreds of videos of the IDF torturing and killing civilians who have voluntarily surrendered.

The public was shocked by yesterday's video where the IDF shoots a 16-year-old boy, and they laugh and wait for him to bleed out. The refugees do not believe that they would be provided security in those "liberated" territories.

The United Nations' UNOSAT satellite center estimates that 30 percent of all structures in Gaza have been damaged since Israel began its war against Hamas. The "most significant increase in damage" was reported in the north central governorate of Gaza and the southern province of Khan Yunis.

Another study, conducted by scientists from the universities of New York and Oregon, estimates that more than half of the buildings in Gaza have been completely destroyed. There is not a single building that has not suffered partial damage.

The US response to the planned offensive on Rafah

US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that "the military operation in Rafah should not continue without a credible and workable plan to ensure security and support for the more than one million people there." While the US has supported Israel in its campaign to root out Hamas, President Biden has repeatedly called for restraint in recent weeks.

In December, he warned that Israel risks losing support because of the "indiscriminate bombing" of Gaza. This month, the US president told reporters that "the response in the Gaza Strip has been excessive." However, Netanyahu doesn't pay attention to anyone's remarks anymore, he does what he envisioned and the world is watching incredible footage of the massacre of children on the Internet.

A few days ago, Al Jazeera published a video of a 12-year-old girl, Sidra, hanging from a balcony while her body was torn to pieces by the bombing.

EU reaction

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell expressed concern about a possible Israeli ground offensive on Rafah at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

That would "lead to an unspeakable humanitarian disaster and serious tensions with Egypt," he said. He added that "the continuation of negotiations on the release of the hostages and the cessation of hostilities are the only way to prevent bloodshed." At a press conference on Monday, Borrell expressed disbelief at Netanyahu's calls for civilians to evacuate Rafah, asking: "They are supposed to evacuate - where? To the moon? Where are they going to evacuate these people?" Israel definitely lost the media war and the support of longtime loyal allies, but it is very likely that we will continue to see a massacre of civilians almost equal to the Holocaust.