in Rafah, the tocsin sounds before the feared Israeli operation

in Rafah, the tocsin sounds before the feared Israeli operation
in Rafah, the tocsin sounds before the feared Israeli operation

► Where are the Palestinians from Rafah called to be evacuated?

Flyers, phone calls, text messages… After around ten nighttime Israeli strikes, thousands of Palestinians from east of Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, received all kinds of messages from the Israeli army “encouraging” to evacuate this area located near the border with Israel and the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

It is near this crossing point, where most of the humanitarian aid passes, that the day before, four Israeli soldiers were killed and ten injured by rockets from the Ezzedine Al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.

“Staying in these areas puts you in danger”, warned the army in one of these messages accompanied by a map where each district is numbered. This first evacuation order concerns around 100,000 residents forced to join, on foot, by cart “the extended humanitarian zone” of Al-Mawasi, a tent camp located on a strip of sand about ten kilometers from Rafah.

This evacuation order does not concern the entire city, where 1.3 million people are crowded, including 600,000 children, most of them displaced by war. But anxiety immediately spread among the population, as Mohammad Yousef, a resident of western Rafah, testified by WhatsApp. “The residents have been in a state of confusion since this morning, no one knows what will happen, explains this 23-year-old law student. Everyone is at their worst and fear dominates the atmosphere. »

► Is this evacuation order the prelude to a major operation?

Israel has been threatening for weeks a large operation on Rafah to ” eliminate “ Hamas. According to the army, the town is home to four of the six battalions of Islamist fighters still active in the Gaza Strip.

If the IDF speaks of a “operation of limited scale”, without detailing the operational schedule, the first strikes targeted two neighborhoods in eastern Rafah affected by these forced displacements on Monday afternoon.

Washington has been trying for weeks to prevent an offensive whose consequences promise to be terrible, according to the international community and humanitarian organizations. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned his American counterpart Lloyd Austin overnight that after the strike on Kerem Shalom, Israel “had no other choice” than launching his operation.

► Does the Israeli operation threaten the conduct of negotiations for a truce?

This operation complicates the efforts of international mediators in Cairo and Doha. According to the Egyptian channel Al-Qahera, discussions ended on Sunday because of the attack on Kerem Shalom. THE New York Times asserts for its part, quoting an Israeli official, that Benjamin Netanyahu’s intransigent declarations on the need to intervene at all costs in Rafah have forced Hamas to toughen up its demands.

Despite this turning point, the Islamist movement affirmed Monday that it was ready to continue negotiations » with a view to a ” agreement (…) which provides for an unlimited ceasefire”. Can Israel use the threat of a vast operation as negotiating leverage? “It appears that the military’s activity in the region is aimed at putting pressure on Hamas in negotiations for a hostage deal, the daily Haaretz said on Monday. It is possible that progress in the negotiations could lead Israel to reconsider military action in the region. »



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