Ignoring world opinion, Netanyahu busy destroying Rafah; US must take action to stop genocide

By Vajra Zayara

A spectre of death has held its grip over the Levant since October 2023, and now it looms over Rafah, the southernmost tip of the Gaza Strip, as the Al-Aqsa flood prepares to wash over the last site of refuge available to Palestinian civilians.

The Palestinian border city wedged between Gaza and Egypt is the sole crossing point for the civilians held in the blockade since 2007. The city was once home to Gaza’s only airport before it was bombed and bulldozed to the ground by Israeli occupation forces. Today, Rafah’s core is rubble and barbed wires, currently receiving massive bombardment through land, air and sea.

MS Education Academy

On February 9, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the decision to move Israeli defence forces to Rafah, marking the ground invasion’s initiation—the final stage of his operation against Hamas. Netanyahu asserts that eliminating four Hamas battalions in Rafah is crucial for Israel’s operational goals. The critical questions arise: What military achievements have the Israeli Defence Forces made so far? Does this move bring Tel Aviv closer to de-escalating the war? Can a ground invasion of Rafah guarantee an end to the current death toll, reaching at least 28,663, including 11,500 children, and leaving over 66,395 injured without medical aid?

Ignoring ceaseless death, destruction

It appears Netanyahu himself has forgotten how North Gaza was once declared the hub of Hamas command centres. In October 2023, IDF planes flew over the residents of North Gaza, urging them to relocate to the South within 24 hours so that the occupation troops could begin with an air raid. The United Nations Office immediately echoed the impracticability of this request for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who called on the Israeli authorities to cancel their order.

In a blatant violation of international law, the IDF callously refused to withdraw their commands and ruthlessly bombed civilians evacuating to the South. Hospitals and infrastructure were destroyed in an attempt to unearth the command centres of the resistance, yet no credible achievements were reported. At this point, the death toll had already surpassed 4000, with 70% of the casualties being women and children. The displaced Palestinians in the South were later greeted with more leaflets urging them not to return to the North, where the war was still ongoing, but to evacuate further south as well.

As per Israeli opinions, Hamas bases are widespread across Gaza; it was reported to be at Jabalia refugee camp where the occupation aeroplanes massacred helpless civilians; it was also located under Al-Shifa Hospital, where the IDF cut fuel and electricity, leaving 36 premature babies to die; it later shifted to Khan Younis in the south, and then it appeared under the UNRWA headquarters. Conveniently, the command centres have now turned up at Rafah.

Indiscriminate bombing

Despite reported Israeli military sophistication, they repeatedly fail to secure strategic victories. Indiscriminate bombings, particularly targeting children and women, reflect a deliberate attempt to eradicate generations of indigenous families, touted by the IDF as military prowess.

The resistance forces, including Al-Qassam Brigades, Al-Quds Brigades, Al-Aqsa Brigades, Mujahideen Brigades, Hezbollah, Yemeni Armed Forces, and Islamic Resistance in Iraq, consistently target and shell IDF tanks, US military bases, and IDF soldiers. The exact number of casualties from these actions remains undisclosed by Tel Aviv. Hamas fighters have neutralised the Iron Dome defence by overwhelming it with rockets. Despite the blockade and heavy surveillance, the resistance has constructed underground tunnels to avoid detection, employing various means such as motorcycles, pickup trucks, boats, paragliders, and mid-range rockets to strike the occupation on October 7.

Egypt may respond

This reveals a military with a profound ignorance of guerrilla warfare, resulting in a significant toll on the Israeli Defence Forces. The occupation appears satisfied with showcasing its power over unarmed civilians. Recent events in Rafah intensify strains in Israel’s relationship with Western allies, prompting their desperate plea for de-escalation and civilian evacuation to align with global peace calls. Biden’s diplomatic statements on mediating a hostage deal lack substance, particularly as he overlooks the crucial arms embargo – the most effective measure to halt the escalating death toll.

Most of the decolonised global South have cut ties with Israel and removed their ambassadors from the settler state. South Africa and Indonesia are petitioners in the ICJ against Israel. Even Saudi Arabia has backed down from normalising ties with Israel. Despite immense pressure from the international civil society, Israeli disdain is obvious.

Palestinians and Sinai

Egypt swiftly denounced the ground operation in Rafah as a violation of the 40-year-old Camp David Peace Accord, issuing a stern warning of “disastrous consequences.” Over 40 tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and air defences are reported to be stationed at the Rafah crossing to prevent potential spillover. The heightened border security, implemented on October 7, anticipates a surge of Palestinian refugees into the Sinai desert. This strategic move is exacerbated by Cairo’s economic crisis, deepening as the ongoing genocide persists. The significant revenue sources of Suez transit fees and tourism have sharply declined since the conflict’s onset. Contrary to appearing as desperate wartime measures, actions in Rafah and Sinai are calculated steps in ethnic cleansing. As reported by the Hebrew website Mekomit, a secret ten-page document from Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence, issued shortly after the Al-Aqsa flood, outlines a strategy to expel Palestinians south into the Sinai forcibly.

Egypt is not keen on welcoming the 1.5 million displaced Palestinian refugees packed in the 682 sq. km of Rafah. The Sinai for Human Rights organisation has reported that Egyptian authorities are creating a buffer zone in Sinai to receive Palestinians displaced from Gaza. The reported area is surrounded by walls 7 metres high that resemble the open-air prison of Gaza.

Rafah resembles no hope and offers no escape. The Palestinian civilians are cluttered and packed in a limited space where they occupy scraps that provide them shelter or flimsy tents that collapse when it rains. Overcrowding has resulted in an outbreak of hepatitis A – which flourishes in close contact, but there is no hope of isolation. Other outbreaks, such as scabies and lice, are imminent worsened by a lack of showers or hygienic toilets.

Families are starved and tired, but in their helplessness is dialectic of defiance. Despite the ongoing assault and certain death, the refugees fearlessly refuse to move again. They have nowhere left to go because there is nowhere in Gaza where Palestinians are free from attack.

Vajra Zayara is a Master’s student in Politics and International Relations from Pondicherry University. Her research interests include technology and knowledge production, Chinese political economy and global conflicts.

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