The Prime Minister’s office has instructed the armed forces to develop a plan for an attack on Rafah, a Gaza border town, and to evacuate civilians in the area. Israel has yet to decide on a date for the attack, according to Haaretz, which cited insider sources.
One of the main challenges is that Israel has not reached an agreement with Egypt regarding the fate of the tunnels that connect Egypt and Gaza. Hamas is believed to have used these tunnels to smuggle weapons and supplies into Gaza. The Israeli government’s announcement of its intention to attack Rafah could increase pressure and prompt Hamas leaders to be more flexible in negotiations between the two sides.
According to Netanyahu’s office, the Prime Minister has ordered the military to prepare a plan to destroy four Hamas battalions in Rafah and evacuate civilians from the area. The attack should be completed by March 10th before Ramadan begins.
Hamas has warned that an Israeli ground attack on Rafah could result in tens of thousands of deaths. International actors have expressed concern about the potential consequences of an attack, as Israel has previously ordered people to evacuate southern Gaza, and there are hundreds of thousands of civilians living in Rafah. According to Gaza Health Ministry data, over 28,000 people have already been killed by Israeli airstrikes and attacks in response to October’s Hamas attacks.