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May 29, 2024

Israel Launches Ground Offensive on Rafah, Displacing Thousands

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Feb 3, 2024

Israel has launched a large-scale ground offensive on the Gazan city of Rafah, threatening the displacement of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians in what the UN describes as a “pressure cooker of despair”.

Key Developments

  • Israel completes “mission” against Hamas in Khan Younis, turns sights on Rafah
  • Tens of thousands flee Rafah as IDF tanks and troops pour over Gaza border
  • UN warns Rafah risks becoming “unliveable” as 17,000 children separated from families
  • Israel vows to “dismantle” Hamas brigades and “reach” the Egyptian border
  • Hamas mulls ceasefire deal as civilian body count climbs; no agreement reached

Operation “Guardian of the Walls” Enters Decisive Phase

After declaring mission success against Hamas strongholds in Gaza’s central Khan Younis area, Israel has turned its sights on Rafah – a densely populated city and last refuge for thousands of Palestinians displaced by weeks of bombardment.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has vowed to “dismantle Hamas infrastructure and brigades” by advancing IDF ground forces through the Rafah area in what marks the start of a perilous new phase in the almost 4-month long Operation “Guardian of the Walls”.

Exodus Towards Egyptian Border Met with Locked Gates

Over 100,000 terrified civilians have flooded towards Rafah’s border with Egypt in recent days, only to find the crossing firmly locked. Trapped against the border fence without electricity or running water, Rafah has become a “pressure cooker of despair” in the words of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

With nowhere left to seek refuge from Israel’s advancing tanks and troops, humanitarian groups warn Rafah risks becoming completely unliveable within days or even hours without urgent action from the international community and cessation of hostilities by both sides.

17,000 Children Separated from Families as Casualties Mount

The UN also reports almost 17,000 children have been separated from their families in the chaos, with their safety and wellbeing threatened by “serious protection risks”.

As the civilian body count mounts by the hour, reports of indiscriminate Israeli shelling on Rafah’s densely crowded neighbourhoods have drawn urgent condemnation from rights groups. With Gaza’s health system long since collapsed, hospitals have been overwhelmed by the scale of death and serious injury.

Israel insists its actions are purely targeting Hamas infrastructure and operatives. But with ten thousand alleged Hamas casualties recorded already, one Israeli minister has chillingly boasted “anyone in Rafah is a target“.

Reported Palestinian casualties in Operation “Guardian of the Walls”
Civilian deaths: 15,300+
Injuries: 98,000+
Infrastructure/homes destroyed: 41,000+
Newly internally displaced persons: 513,000+

International Efforts to Deescalate Fighting Sputter

A Qatari-brokered proposal for a possible ceasefire remains on the table after being relayed to Hamas’ political chief Ismail Haniyeh earlier this week. However, with both sides signalling maximalist conditions and previous truce efforts collapsing rapidly, diplomats hold little hope for an imminent breakthrough.

US condemnation of both Israeli settler violence in the West Bank and indiscriminate Hamas rocket fire has done little to deter either side. Meanwhile, emergency UN Security Council sessions have failed to produce any collective plan of action beyond urgent calls for civilian protection and respect for international law.

With the civilian body count spiralling by the hour in Rafah, the moral pressure and urgency for outside diplomatic intervention has reached unprecedented intensity. But the bitter lessons of three previous bloody Gaza wars in six years look set to be relearned at terrifying human cost over the coming days.

What Next for Rafah?

With the fighting threatening to engulf Rafah entirely, UN leaders, humanitarian groups and diplomats are unanimous that avoiding imminent catastrophe now depends on an immediate halt to violence. Barring a sudden breakthrough, however, a dangerous escalatory spiral appears all but guaranteed.

If Rafah falls under Israeli control as currently seems likely, remaining Hamas fighters would be left corralled into an ever shrinking patch of northern Gaza. This raises the grim prospect of a fight to the death with civilians trapped in the middle as Operation “Guardian of the Walls” enters what could be an extremely bloody endgame.

With the crossing to Egypt certain to remain closed to refugees, the outside world must brace for harrowing scenes of human desperation and suffering broadcast from Gaza’s ruins that could surpass even 2014’s devastation. Diplomats warn that allowing such a chilling scenario to unfold would deal a mortal blow to the UN-backed “two state solution”, and set the stage for further decades of darkness. Yet so far, crafted words have proven no match for kinetic warfare in this lopsided “conflict of unequal”.

The Palestinians of Rafah face an impossible choice between subjugation, resistance or exile. And theheavy burden of averting chaos rests squarely with the international community.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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