After False Hope of Ceasefire, Israel Invades Rafah
May 16 2024
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On Monday, May 6, Hamas officials announced that they had agreed to a ceasefire proposal presented by Egypt and Qatar. 

The proposal was broken down into three phases, each lasting 42 days. Its ultimate aim was to achieve a permanent ceasefire, lift the blockade on Gaza, facilitate the complete withdrawal of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) from Gaza, and arrange for the exchange of Israeli captives for Palestinian political prisoners. 

Al Jazeera reported that phase one would halt all military action, including minimizing the hours of drones patrolling above the Gaza Strip. This phase also involved the initiation of the IOF’s retreat toward the border fence. 

Phase two would have commenced the exchange of captives for Palestinian prisoners. The Israeli regime would be required to release 30 Palestinians from the thousands of prisoners it has detained, in exchange for one Israeli captive. A permanent cessation of all military operations and a complete withdrawal of the IOF from Gaza would be implemented. Additionally, displaced Palestinians would begin returning to their homes — or the ruins of their homes — throughout this stage.

Phase three aimed to establish a long-term plan for reintroducing aid distribution from relief agencies such as UNRWA. It would have also initiated the reconstruction of damaged or destroyed homes. Most importantly for long-term sustainability, it would entail a complete end to Israel’s 17-year-long siege on Gaza. 

News of this agreement sparked false hope, leading people to celebrate in the streets of southern Gaza. However, once Hamas publicly agreed to the deal, Israeli officials swiftly declared their regime’s refusal to accept it. Instead, they pressed forward with their plans for a ground invasion of Rafah. 

The Israeli regime released a statement indicating that moving forward with a Rafah invasion is instrumental to their agenda. Netanyahu’s associates were quoted saying that the invasion of Rafah was necessary “to apply military pressure on Hamas, with the goal of making progress on freeing the hostages and the other war aims.” 

This reasoning is just another strand in the web of lies spun by the Israeli Occupation. Reiterating an earlier point, the latest ceasefire proposal would have resulted in the release of all captives, including the remains of those killed by Israeli airstrikes. However, Israel has continuously ignored legitimate offers that would lead to the return of all captives taken by Hamas on Oct. 7. The most recent deal was condemned by Israeli government officials, such as Orit Strook, who, while speaking to an Israeli army radio station, stated that saving the remaining captives isn’t worth it. 

By nightfall on May 6, Israel made its goal even more explicitly clear: the complete obliteration of Gaza, evident through bombings and the deployment of its forces into Rafah. The ground invasion of Gaza’s southernmost city follows seven months of carnage. The IOF has ethnically cleansed and displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from across the Gaza Strip to the south, where an estimated 1.5 million people have been confined. This has effectively created a concentrated zone of genocide.

As the IOF performatively dropped leaflets across Rafah, urging displaced individuals and families to evacuate for the umpteenth time, it once again became evident that the IOF intended to slaughter Gaza’s population. Some Palestinians in Rafah informed Middle East Eye that there is no safe haven in Gaza, and nowhere to flee. Rafah was once declared a safe zone, yet now the IOF has invaded with its tanks and obliterated the crossing, following other repeated incursions and blockades. Palestinians are acutely aware that wherever they seek refuge, the IOF will pursue them and make them targets.

The invasion of Rafah — an area that was already experiencing bombings — has already inflicted dire consequences on the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in what feels like an impending death camp. Electronic Intifada reports that “the closure of Rafah has prevented sick and injured people from leaving Gaza for medical treatment and blocked the import of medicines.” Food supplies across the besieged strip are estimated to last between one and four days, as assessed by the World Food Program. Meanwhile, only a day’s worth of fuel reserves remain. 

The Israeli military has also reportedly established checkpoints on the outskirts of Rafah to prevent “fighting-aged males” from fleeing, contradicting the evacuation leaflets they rained down on the region. This is yet another alarming indication of genocidal intent. 

As the offensive on Rafah intensifies, northern Gaza is simultaneously under intense bombardment. Jabaliya refugee camp has become one of the IOF’s recent targets in its objective to eradicate Palestinians from Gaza. Palestinians in Gaza are under attack from all sides. Even the Egyptian government is solidifying its plans for the permanent displacement of Palestinians into the Sinai. 

At the time of the writing of this report, more than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Western-backed Israeli regime, with tens of thousands more mutilated, injured, paralyzed, widowed, and orphaned. World leaders — including Biden, Ursula von der Leyen, and even leaders of several Arab states — continue to greenlight the extermination of the Palestinian people, in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the rest of Occupied Palestine.

About The Author: 

Asma Barakat holds an MA in Sociology from The New School and a BA in Political Science from Montclair State University. She is the co-creator of an oral history archive titled Rooted in Palestine.

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