Israel Ignores Ceasefire Deal, Poised to Enter Rafah

Gaza Rafah

Editor’s Note: Hamas has agreed to a ceasefire deal through Egyptian and Qatari mediators with the backing of the United States CIA Director William Burns who extended his stay in Doha. The ball is now in Israel’s court. Its government was taken by surprise. Burns now flies to Tel Aviv to sell the deal that includes the release of all 134-or-Israeli and foreign hostages held by Hamas.   

While the Israeli military is on the verge of entering Rafah and has been continually bombing it from the air, the world warns Tel Aviv of the severe human catastrophe such an action would create.

World leaders starting from US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanual Macron, German Foreign Ministry to EU Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Petra De Sutter are all warning Israel not to enter the southern city of Gaza because of the civilian bloodbath this will entail. Indeed, De Sutter described the looming invasion of Rafah will “lead to a massacre.”

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not listening. He says Israel must enter Rafah to end the last vestiges of Hamas fighters, saying previously, Israeli would enter Rafah regardless of a deal is reached or not. He is clearly in denial since most of the world leaders, including the CIA and even Israeli ministers and intelligence agencies believe this war on Gaza is unwinnable.

The continuation of the war on Gaza, including the firmness to enter Rafah are part of the stubborn moves by Netanyahu to keep himself in power because he knows once this war is over, he will go to prison because of the corruption charges levelled against him.  

So, the war continues, entry into Rafah poised, Israeli military on standby and “egged on” by the extreme rightwing in this coalition government which continues to threaten its downfall if it doesn’t invade this small city with an original population of 200,000, now inflated to 1.5 million because of the displaced refugees.

Now, the displaced people in the city are set to move again thanks to the Israeli army which is ordering them to go back to Al Mowasi, a desolate area, east of Khan Younis, a city that was destroyed through Israeli bombardment, a month ago.

An evacuation order has been already sent out to the people of east Rafah to start moving. Sally Abi Khalil of Middle East Oxfam is deeply worried. She said this is tantamount to an “impending invasion of Rafah”.  She added such a military offensive would be “catastrophic”, adding there is “no safe place to go” in Gaza in reference to what the Israeli army has been telling civilians in this nearly 8-month onslaught to go to “safe areas”.

“It’s unfathomable that one government is allowed to ignore all warnings of the catastrophic humanitarian cost with full impunity, and to callously press forward in chilling disregard for human life, international law, and the ICJ ruling to prevent genocide,” the Turkish news agency Anadolu news quoted her as saying.

However, the world today is frantic. An invasion into Rafah would massively add to the civilian deaths that already stands at 34,600 people, most of whom are women and children. UN statistics show 600,000 of the displaced people in Rafah are children and they will be amongst the targeted people once the Israeli tanks starts bombing them on a large-scale.

UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Francesca Albanese is dismayed and angry, saying the Israeli evacuation order affects hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians who are told and forced to continue moving.

“Is there any red line left that Israel cannot cross?” she said. “The West must intervene and impose an immediate arms embargo, sanctions and divestments, unless it wants to risk being complicit in Israel’s crimes in Gaza.”

However, the frustrations continue to be aired in some western corridors of power with private misgivings occasionally coming out into the open staring with Joe Biden himself, when he said Israel needs to stop its “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza or else it would lose all its international, a remark made last October but quickly retracted.

Recently as well, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell blasted out, saying “Israel’s evacuation orders to civilians in Rafah portend the worst: More war and famine. It is unacceptable.” Borrell has been speaking out against the Israeli war on Gaza since at least last February when he spoke against Netanyahu’s plan to evacuate the people of Gaza. “Where are they [Palestinians] going to be evacuated? To the Moon?” he said incredulously.

Borrell is one of the few leaders in the West to speak frankly on the Gaza slaughter. He is on record of saying western leaders including Biden who says that too many people are being killed. He pointed out that if you really think this is the case then stop providing Israel with arms and weapons.

Throughout this war the United States has been the main supplier of military hardware and mass bombs to Israel to the point of being seen as complicit in the genocide of Gaza. After the USA, the UK, France, Germany and Italy amongst others boosted their arms supplies to Israel and they too must be seen as complicit too.

Back to Rafah  

The world is hoping Israel will not enter Rafah especially now Hamas has agreed to a ceasefire deal. But all indications point out they will enter the city regardless of any peace deal. This is because, and despite the mass destructions of the Gaza Strip, they continue to feel like a bear with a sore head and want revenge for 7 October in which 1200 of Israelis were killed.

Dr Marwan Asmar  based in Amman, Jordan, is a commentator on Middle East and world affairs

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