IDF begins isolating Rafah, orders 40,000 tents

IDF begins isolating Rafah, orders 40,000 tents

Displaced Palestinians pitch tents next to the Egyptian border with the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 8, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

The Israel Defense Forces has begun isolating Rafah in southern Gaza and has started taking steps to evacuate the city’s civilian population, Channel 12 reported on Wednesday.

The moves come despite intensifying international opposition to a ground operation in the last Hamas stronghold, which Jerusalem says is necessary to defeat the terrorist organization. The final four Hamas battalions, comprising some 3,000 terrorists, are holed up in the city, according to Israel.

There are also well over a million Gazans sheltering in Rafah, causing concern regarding potential harm to noncombatants.

As part of the preparations for the operation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the purchase from China of 40,000 tents for Rafah evacuees, which will be moved to the Gaza Strip from Israel, according to the report.

“Clear places will be defined in the Strip where the tents will be placed and the refugees will stay,” the article states.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stressed the need to protect the noncombatants in Rafah in an interview with Channel 12 on Wednesday.

“We simply cannot support a significant ground attack in Rafah which does not include an achievable and verifiable plan that would ensure the security of 1.5 million Gazans who found refuge there. And they found refuge there because of the operations that were conducted in the north, in Khan Yunis and earlier in Gaza City,” said Kirby.

“We need to ensure that their security is well taken care of,” Kirby continued. “We recognize that it is necessary to act against Hamas, we certainly recognize that Israel has the right to do so; of course they do. Hamas still poses a real threat, and we know that there are Hamas terrorists in Rafah. We fully understand the need to do so, but we do not believe that entering Rafah is a good idea—a massive entrance.”

The White House favors a limited operation aimed at high-value targets and securing the Gaza-Egypt border, instead of a large-scale ground operation.

An Israeli official told JNS that the White House has contacted Israel to reschedule a canceled ministerial-level delegation to Washington to discuss the Rafah operation.

Shortly thereafter, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a White House press briefing that “The Prime Minister’s Office has agreed to reschedule the meeting dedicated to Rafah,” which she called “urgent.”

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and an Israel Defense Forces official had been slated to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for meetings with U.S. counterparts.

Washington had said the discussion would focus on alternatives to a military operation in Rafah, amid reports that Biden is considering conditioning military aid to Israel if Jerusalem moves ahead with it.

Netanyahu announced on Monday that he was canceling the delegation’s trip, after the United States failed to veto a ceasefire resolution at the U.N. Security Council earlier in the day.

Netanyahu said that Biden’s move “hurts the war effort and the effort to release the hostages” by giving Hamas hope that international pressure will bring about a ceasefire without freeing the 134 remaining captives.

The premier told Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) on Wednesday that his decision to cancel Dermer and Hanegbi’s visit to Washington “was a message to Hamas: ‘Don’t bet on this pressure. It’s not going to work.’”

While the Israeli official told JNS that Washington initiated the request to reschedule the meeting, multiple U.S. media outlets cited a U.S. official as stating that the request had come from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.

“The Prime Minister’s Office is in touch with us to reschedule. It’s likely to be fairly soon, but I don’t have a date to announce,” a U.S. official told Axios before Jean-Pierre formally announced the news.

Former U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo weighed in on the matter over the weekend, tweeting that “allowing Hamas to remain in Rafah would be like firefighters only putting out 80% of a fire. We should support Israel’s mission to completely defeat Hamas.”

Around three-quarters of Jewish Israelis and a majority of Israelis overall support expanding the military operations against Hamas to Rafah, according to polling conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute.

Source: JNS