Israel advances in Rafah, alone against all

Israel advances in Rafah, alone against all
Israel advances in Rafah, alone against all

With a stroke of the accelerator, the tank flattens the letters “I love Gaza.” It was still early Tuesday morning when the Israeli army announced that it had seized the Rafah terminal, along the Egyptian border, after an intense night of bombing on this city where 1.5 million Gazan refugees are held.

Hopes for a truce, which followed Hamas’ surprise Monday evening announcement of approval of a deal proposed by Egypt and Qatar, quickly gave way to disillusionment. Judge “far from Israel’s basic demands”the agreement was reneged by the war cabinet, which unanimously decided to continue the operation in Rafah “in order to exert military pressure on Hamas and advance the release of our hostages and other war objectives”according to the press release issued by the Prime Minister’s office.

The Israeli army took advantage of the night to take control of the border between Gaza and Egypt, and part of the Philadelphia corridor, this 14 km long road which acts as a buffer zone with Egypt, without encountering significant resistance. “It’s a very strategic take, said Chuck Freilich, former deputy national security adviser in Israel. This crossing point hides tunnels through which Hamas smuggling activities circulate. The operation, limited, seems designed to put pressure on the group and push it to accept an agreement. »

“Israel cannot appear weak”

By confining his movements to the Egyptian border and mediating this military conquest, Benjamin Netanyahu is playing with the nerves of his American ally, hostile to the invasion of Rafah, but who, according to the Axios site, would have lacked transparency in the drafting of a new agreement.

His hardline position is aimed at his public opinion. “Netanyahu and his acolytes, especially those with military experience (Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot), want to tell the Israeli Jewish public, which overwhelmingly supports the war, that Israel acted in Rafah, says Ori Goldberg, lecturer in Middle Eastern studies at Reichman University. In its own mind, Israel cannot appear weak, yet acceptance of a deal has been presented as capitulation. »

Above all, its political partners from the radical and religious right threatened to leave the coalition if an agreement was signed with Hamas. Enough to cause the collapse of the coalition, and the political end of Benyamin Netanyahu. Caught between the hammer of his cumbersome political alliances and the anvil of his American ally, the Israeli Prime Minister is circumventing the obstacles by playing for time.

The myth of “total victory”

“It horrifies me to say it, but this war benefits his political survival: he knowingly makes it lastsays Chuck Freilich, now a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). For me, the war ended in December. Since then, it has only been a matter of static operations. But Benjamin Netanyahu cannot say that the war is over, because he has not obtained a military victory. So he pushes to enter Rafah, and maintains the myth of a “total victory” which makes no sense today. »

Israel must still send a delegation to Cairo to continue negotiations. The coming days will tell whether or not this start of the operation in Rafah has put pressure on Hamas.

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