The Israeli Prime Minister’s office has issued orders for the military to develop a plan for a potential attack on Rafah, a Gaza border town. While Israel has not yet announced the date of the attack, insider sources say that it is expected to happen soon.
One of the biggest concerns is that Israel and Egypt have not reached an agreement on what to do with the tunnels connecting the two regions. Hamas, an extremist organization, is believed to have used these tunnels to smuggle weapons and other supplies into Gaza. A possible Israeli attack on Rafah could put pressure on Hamas leaders to be more flexible in negotiations with Israel.
According to a statement from Netanyahu’s office, the Prime Minister has instructed the military to prepare a plan to destroy four Hamas battalions in Rafah and evacuate civilians from the area. The attack must 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 casualties. International actors have also expressed concern about the potential effects of such an attack, as Israel has previously urged people to evacuate from southern Gaza and there are hundreds of thousands of civilians living in the Rafah area. According to data from Hamas-controlled health officials, over 28,000 people had already been killed by Israeli airstrikes and attacks by Saturday in response to the October 2018 attacks by Hamas.