MS Risk Blog

Gaza Escalation: Understanding Israel’s Rafah Operation and Its Broader Implications

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This paper analyses Israel’s military operation in Rafah on May 6th, 2024, within the broader context of the Gaza Strip conflict. It explores the factors leading to the operation, its immediate consequences, and its regional and international implications, including diplomatic tensions and humanitarian concerns.

On May 6th, 2024, Israel launched an operation in and around Rafah as part of its invasion of the Gaza Strip, gaining control of a crucial border crossing and shutting off most supplies to the neighbourhood a day before indirect discussions on a ceasefire agreement were scheduled to commence. The Israeli operation began hours after Hamas officials said on Monday night that they would accept a recent ceasefire proposal presented by Qatari and Egyptian mediators. Israeli forces airdropped leaflets to Palestinians in east Rafah on Sunday night, telling them to flee to a safe zone; yet the operation began only hours later. The Israeli military seized control of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Tuesday, after airstrikes on the southern Palestinian city on Monday.

Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defence minister, stated that the attack would continue until Hamas soldiers in Rafah “and the entire Gaza Strip” were “eliminated”, or the militant Islamist organization began to release captives.

According to the IDF, six rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip’s Rafah sector on May 7th towards Kerem Shalom and the Re’im region in southern Israel in retaliation to the Israeli operation.

The United States, Israel’s staunchest ally, has repeatedly urged Israel against launching a significant military assault in Rafah, where more than a million civilians evacuated from other parts of Gaza are seeking refuge. In addition, aid groups have forecast a major humanitarian disaster. On the other hand, President Netanyahu later reacted, stating that the civilian losses from Sunday’s strike on the Rafah camp were a ‘tragic error’.

This Israeli action has and will have far-reaching ramifications for regional stability. Neighbouring nations have already expressed their displeasure, with Egypt reportedly considering downgrading ties with Israel, perhaps ending the peace accords between the two countries. The operation would necessitate the relocation of Palestinians into Egyptincreasing tensions with Egypt since the arrival of so many displaced people would be difficult for Egypt as well and would impede the return of Palestinians to their land after the conflict. On Lebanon now, as the IDF makes its first steps on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, Hezbollah announces the use of new weaponry in strikes over the northern border, calls for further soldier mobilisation, and sends other signs of impending escalation. Whether their claims are legitimate or simply an effort to cause fear, the pressure on Israel is increasing.

The necessity for the international community to enhance diplomatic efforts and humanitarian help to solve the rising catastrophe in Gaza is growing significantly, and Netanyahu is under pressure from both the international community and his own administration.