Israel Moving Forward With Rafah Ground Offensive

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, May 06, 2024 - 08:34 PM


  • Hamas claims to accept ceasefire, hostage deal while Israel says 'This isn’t what we agreed to'

  • Bombardment and air strikes on eastern Rafah

  • Over 50 targets hit as IDF prepares for ground operation

  • President Macron warns against ground op

  • Civilians warned to evacuate. Tens of thousands of flyers dropped

  • Biden phoned Netanyahu to urge against Rafah ground op without acceptable evacuation plan 

  • Axios reported that for the first time the US has paused ammo shipments to Israel

  • Senior official: Israel will achieve all its war objectives

  • Palestinians on streets holding premature celebrations over Hamas accepting deal, but Israel rejects thus far

  • ‘Bibi is abandoning the hostages!’: Protesters in Jerusalem demand deal

  • Al-Quds Brigades fires rockets towards Israel

  • Israel says ground offensive necessary after four soldiers killed by rocket fire out of Rafah

  • European Union says offensive is "unacceptable"

  • Palestinian Authority alleges US not interested in achieving truce

  • Jordan says PM Netanyahu jeopardizing ceasefire by bombing Rafah

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Update(1634ET)The ground operation in Rafah is moving forward, Israeli officials have confirmed. There was earlier premature talk of Hamas having accepted an Egyptian and Qatari proposed 'deal' - but Israel has not signed on, but has only said it will examine it.

According to an Israeli media update:

Israel’s war cabinet decides unanimously to push ahead with an operation in Rafah “in order to apply military pressure on Hamas, with the goal of making progress on freeing the hostages and the other war aims,” the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.

The statement says Hamas’s latest truce offer is “far from Israel’s essential demands.”

Nonetheless, Israel is going to send working-level teams to hold talks with the mediators in order “to exhaust the possibility of achieving an agreement on terms that are acceptable to Israel,” says the PMO.

Israel struck at least 50 targets in Rafah on Monday, which appears preparation to send in ground forces. There have meanwhile been some sporadic early reports that the ground op might have already begun. It is expected to focus on eastern Rafah.

* * *

Update(1255ET): There are breaking reports from several Middle East outlets, including Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya that Hamas has accepted the ceasefire proposal of Egypt and Qatar.

BREAKING: Hamas says in a statement it has accepted the Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal.

However, almost immediately on the heels of the above statement came this rejection:

Israeli army radio journalist: "Sources in Israel: Hamas actually approved a softened Egyptian proposal that is unacceptable to Israel."

This was enough to elicit a rapid response in oil prices, with a sudden drop on the initial headline before quickly correcting upward...

According to a WSJ description of the "Egyptian proposal" in question:

Egypt offered a new proposal for a truce between Israel and Hamas in which some Israeli hostages would be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and a three-week cease-fire, in a bid to stave off an Israeli military offensive in the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

Israel, which helped create the proposal, according to Egyptian officials, would commit to entering longer-term discussions once Hamas releases a first group of 20 hostages over the truce period—a formulation designed to overcome the militant group’s reluctance to release any hostages without any prospect of ending the war.

So for now these fresh headlines seem somewhat of a nothingburger, and the situation remains unchanged:


Israel says this is "a trick" and a ruse intended to cast Israel as the side refusing...

According to more emerging details...

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Update(10:50ET): As of Saturday the Israel-Hamas ceasefire negotiations were widely reported to be very 'close' to reaching a truce deal to free up to 40 Israeli hostages, but with Israel's military on Monday clearly preparing for an offensive on Rafah, the talks are collapsing. According to the latest via NewsSquawk: 

Hamas sources report that they have decided to freeze ceasefire negotiations with Israel and postpone the return of their delegation to Cairo, via Faytuks citing al-Jadeed.

Both sides are already blaming the other for what are increasingly looking to be failed talks. IDF strikes against parts of Rafah have at the same time intensified. "Israel's military carried out airstrikes in Rafah on Monday, residents said, hours after Israel told Palestinians to evacuate parts of the southern Gaza city where more than a million people uprooted by the war have been sheltering," Reuters reports.

"Fears are growing of a full-blown assault in Rafah, long threatened by Israel, against holdouts of the Palestinian militant group Hamas as ceasefire talks in Cairo stall," Reuters continues. "Hamas official Izzat al-Rashiq said in a statement that any Israeli operation in Rafah would put the truce talks in jeopardy."

Israel's military announced the Rafah offensive would proceed, and warned civilians to evacuate the eastern part of the city, in the wake of a Hamas rocket attack on the outskirts of Rafah which killed four Israeli troops. Sunday through Monday IDF airstrikes on the city killed at least 28, including 11 children, according to Gaza's health ministry.

Some are accusing Hamas of sabotaging the deal with the deadly rocket attack, while others blame Netanyahu - alleging that negotiations were just a cover and stalling tactic ahead of a Rafah onslaught. 

On Monday Biden held a phone call with PM Netanyahu, wherein the US president likely urged against a new offensive and to advance ceasefire talks forward. According to Al Jazeera:

The United States is still concerned that this may go ahead while there is the possibility of talks over a ceasefire. But in Washington there’s also the suggestion that perhaps the Israelis are pushing ahead with this plan to force Hamas to the negotiating table and agree to Israel’s terms.

The talks come amid a backdrop of what Netanyahu said in an address to the Israeli people at the weekend – that you “cannot trust the promises of gentiles [non-Jews]”. That has angered a lot of people in Washington, not least because of the support President Joe Biden has given Israel, and the support that he has given them militarily.

Axios previously reported that the US has begun withholding ammunition transfers from Israel, but this is likely minimal and merely symbolic at this point.

* * *

The last several hours have seen a significant escalation of the situation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, sending Western diplomats scrambling and resulting in new threats and counterthreats between Hamas and Israeli leaders.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have urged many thousands of Palestinian civilians to urgently evacuate ahead of an impending ground offensive. In the overnight hours Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that Israel now believes it has no choice but the carry on with the major ground operation, despite it having been stalled for months.

Gallant cited that a Hamas rocket attack was carried out from Rafah, killing four Israeli soldiers. Airstrikes in eastern Rafah have already begun, and residents and refugees there are being dropped flyers - and homes are also reportedly receiving urgent messages - telling them to evacuate immediately.

AFP/TOI: Displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip carry their belongings as they await transportation following a call to evacuate by the Israeli army on May 6, 2024.

An expanded humanitarian zone is being set up by the IDF in the vicinity of the al-Mawasi and Khan Younis areas of southern Gaza.

"Driving through Rafah, the tension was palpable with people evacuating as rapidly as they could," a British humanitarian health workers was cited by Al Jazeera as saying.

The IDF is calling this a "limited scope operation" - with army spokesman Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani describing that for now 100,000 people were being ordered to move to the humanitarian zone. The army has further issued a map of the evacuation area and 'safe zones'.

A military statement said that "in accordance with the approval of the political echelon, the IDF calls on the population, which is under the control of Hamas, to temporarily evacuate from the eastern neighborhoods of Rafah to the expanded humanitarian zone."

"This matter will progress gradually, according to an ongoing assessment of the situation," it added. "The IDF will continue to pursue Hamas everywhere in Gaza until all the hostages that they’re holding in captivity are back home."

As for the tens of thousands of warning flyers currently being dropped, one reads: "Anyone found near (militant) organizations endangers themselves and their family members. For your safety, the (army) urges you to evacuate immediately to the expanded humanitarian area."

And the flyers further stipulate: "It is prohibited to come near to the eastern and southern security fences." Humanitarian aid organizations, including the UN and some Western governments have warned that an all-out assault on Rafah, which has swelled during the war to some 1.5 million people (mostly internally displaced refugees), will be a humanitarian catastrophe.

Via Al Jazeera

There are also fears that at a moment CIA director William Burns is in the region trying to salvage negotiations toward reaching a deal for the return of hostages, any hope for a truce will dashed by the Rafah operation.

But so far, Hamas as indicated it is still committed to the talks. "We will continue the negotiations positively and with an open heart," Hamas spokesman Abdul Latif al-Qanou told AFP. He said an agreement is still needed "for a permanent ceasefire and the fulfilment of the demands of our people."

But Prime Minister Netanyahu has not backed off his ultimate aim of seeing the total eradication of Hamas complete, which requires going after the remaining battalions in Rafah city. According to Israeli media:

Israeli officials have said the terror group has six remaining battalions in the Gaza Strip, four of them in Rafah: Yabna (South), Shaboura (North), Tel Sultan (West) and East Rafah. Two more Hamas battalions remain in central Gaza, in the Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah camps.

Hamas is meanwhile warning in a fresh reaction statement to the IDF preparing its long awaited offensive that it will not be a "picnic" for Israeli forces. "Our valiant resistance, led by al-Qassam Brigades, is fully prepared to defend our people," the group said of its armed wing.

As expected, this has triggered some pushback against Netanyahu both locally and internationally. Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed it as irresponsible, saying that in effect the Netanyahu government has "abandoned" the captives

France is among the first countries Monday to warn against the Rafah attack, with French President Emmanuel Macron holding a phone call with Netanyahu. Macron stated his firm opposition to a ground offensive and encouraged a ceasefire instead. In late March, Macron had actually warned that forced transfer of civilians from Rafah could be a "war crime".

IDF flyers dropped over Rafah on Monday:

Likely sensing that Netanyahu would not halt military plans for a Gaza invasion, it has been widely reported that for the first time the Biden administration has put a hold on a shipment of US-made ammunition which was bound for Israel.

The revelation came in a Sunday report by Axios, confirmed by two Israeli officials. "The incident raised serious concerns inside the Israeli government and sent officials scrambling to understand why the shipment was held, Israeli officials said," Axios reported.

Campus protests are likely to grow fiercer in light of a Rafah attack. "President Biden is facing sharp criticism among Americans who oppose his support of Israel," the report noted. "The administration in February asked Israel to provide assurances that U.S.-made weapons were being used by Israel Defense Forces in Gaza in accordance with international law. Israel provided a signed letter of assurances in March."

Below area some further geopolitical headlines Monday morning...

* * *

Geopolitics: Middle East

  • Israeli forces are now launching raids east of Rafah, via Sky News
  • Israel military says not going to put a timeframe on the Rafah evacuation and will make "operation assessments"
  • Israeli military says evacuating Rafah as part of a "limited scope" operation
  • The Israeli army has ordered civilians in several parts of Rafah to leave the city as it begins an invasion of the southern city, via journalist Soylu
  • Israeli Defence Minister, speaking with US Defence Secretary Austin, that action in Rafah is required due to Hamas' refusal of hostage-release proposals
  • Senior Hamas Official says to Reuters that Israel's Rafah evacuation order is a "dangerous escalation that will have consequences"; Hamas may withdraw from truce talks due to Rafah operations.
  • Israel’s military said the Kerem Shalom Crossing with Gaza is now closed to aid trucks after it came under fire with mortar shelling which killed 3 Israeli soldiers and wounded 12 others from the Givanti and Nahal brigades, while Hamas claimed responsibility for the mortar attack on Kerem Shalom and said it targeted an Israeli army base, according to Reuters.
  • Israeli PM Netanyahu said they cannot accept Hamas’s demands for an end to the war and the withdrawal of forces from Gaza, while he noted that ending the Gaza war now would keep Hamas in power and Israel would not accept terms that amount to a capitulation with Israel to keep fighting until its war aims are achieved. It was separately reported that Israel’s Defence Minister said Hamas appears uninterested in a deal meaning strong military action in Gaza’s Rafah could happen very soon, according to Reuters.
  • Israeli army is said to have started to evacuate civilians from parts of Rafah, according to Haaretz cited by Walla's Guy Elster. Subsequently, Bloomberg reported that the Israeli military asks some Rafah civilians to move out of the city, according to Bloomberg.
  • Hamas’ leader said they are still keen on reaching a comprehensive agreement, while the group said the round of negotiations in Cairo has ended and the delegation will leave to consult with the group’s leadership, according to Reuters. It was separately reported that Hamas agrees that Israel can commit to ending the war in the second stage of the hostage deal not the first, according to Times of Israel via social media platform X.
  • CIA chief Burns is to travel to Doha for an emergency meeting with Qatar’s PM as Gaza talks are said to be ‘near to collapse’, while Qatar and the US are to exert maximum pressure on Israel and Hamas to continue negotiations, according to an official briefed on talks cited by Reuters. It was separately reported that Burns will stay in Qatar on Monday and likely travel to Israel this week to meet with Israeli PM Netanyahu, according to an Axios reporter.
  • US reportedly put a hold on an ammunition shipment to Israel last week, according to two Israeli officials cited by Axios.
  • Iraqi armed factions announced they targeted an Israeli air base in Eilat with drones, according to Al Arabiya.
  • Israeli Cabinet decided to close Qatari TV network Al Jazeera’s operations in Gaza, according to a statement cited by Reuters. It was later reported that Israel’s communications ministry said a police raid was conducted at an Al Jazeera premises in Jerusalem.


  • Russia said it took full control of Ocheretyne village in eastern Ukraine, according to the Defence Ministry, cited by Reuters.
  • Russian Defence Ministry says preparations are beginning for the commencement of a missile exercises in the southern district, incl. aviation & navy forces