Prime Minister Netanyahu has instructed the Israeli military to prepare a plan for a ground attack on Rafah, a Gaza border town. According to Haaretz, which cited insider sources, Israel has not yet decided on an exact date for the operation. The attack could increase pressure on Hamas leaders and prompt them to be more flexible in negotiations between the two sides.
One of the biggest concerns is that Israel and Egypt have not reached an agreement about what will happen to the tunnels that run between Egypt and Gaza. Hamas is believed to have used these tunnels to smuggle weapons and supplies into Gaza. If Israel goes through with its plans to attack Rafah, it could put additional pressure on Hamas and force them to negotiate in good faith.
The press release from Netanyahu’s office stated that the Prime Minister has instructed the armed forces to destroy four Hamas battalions in Rafah and evacuate civilians from the area before March 10th, before Ramadan begins. This move could potentially lead to a significant escalation of violence in Gaza, as there are hundreds of thousands of civilians living in the Rafah area alone.
Hamas has warned that an Israeli ground attack on Rafah could result in tens of thousands of casualties. International actors have also expressed their concern about the potential humanitarian crisis that could arise from such an attack. According to Gaza Health Ministry data, over 28,000 people had already been killed by Israeli airstrikes and attacks by Saturday in response to October’s Hamas attack.