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Israel moves to ‘limited’ Rafah attack, US to not object: report

Israel launched its military operation in Rafah on 6 May, with Palestinians reported killed daily [Getty/file photo]

Israel will reportedly not carry out a large-scale offensive on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, but will act in a “more limited manner” following discussions with its ally, the US, according to the Washington Post.

The US news website said that Israel’s previous plan to send two divisions into Rafah will “no longer move forward”, based on conversations with two sources familiar with the matter.

Should the limited assault plan on Rafah go ahead, the US is “not expected to oppose it”, the Washington Post reported.

Rafah is currently home to 1.4 million forcibly displaced Palestinians seeking refuge from Israel’s brutal military onslaught in the enclave. Families are living in overcrowded tents and unsanitary conditions, as they continue to shelter from the Israeli bombardment. 

A lack of sufficient aid in Rafah and the enclave as a whole has triggered fears of a humanitarian crisis, and a looming famine.

Israel has for months been threatening to carry out a full-scale ground and air offensive on Rafah, amid multiple warnings from UN agencies, urging that if such an invasion would go ahead, a humanitarian catastrophe would ensue.

On 6 May, Israeli forces seized Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt as they began a long-threatened attack against the overcrowded city, which they claim as Hamas’ “last stronghold”.

Rafah has been subject to regular bombing, with dozens killed every day over the past few months.

The decision comes after US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Saudi and Israeli officials this week, where Washington had signposted “the direction of a gradual end to Israeli combat operations and the beginning of a still-fuzzy ‘day after.'”

Last week, Sullivan told reporters at the White House that a major military operation by Israel in Rafah would “be a mistake”, and described the situation for Palestinians in Gaza as “hell”.

Despite such comments, the US national security adviser stressed that the Biden administration doesn’t “view” the killing of over 35,000 Gazans as “genocide”.

The report also said that unnamed Israeli officials have agreed on how the situation in Gaza will unfold when and if the brutal war ends.

The officials said that this will include “Palestinian security force drawn in part from the Palestinian Authority’s administrative payroll in Gaza, which will be overseen by a governing council of Palestinian notables, backed by Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia”.

The framework, however, was decided before the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for the war in Gaza, as well as Hamas officials Mohammed Deif, Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh.

The report also comes after Israel claimed that 950,000 Palestinians had forcibly fled the Rafah area, with some 300,000 to 400,000 Palestinians remaining, as Israeli forces began launching its military operation earlier this month.

On Saturday, the UN said 800,000 Palestinians have been left, seeking shelter and safety elsewhere despite the widespread bombardment.

Satellite images recently released by the Associated Press on Monday showed the large exodus from Rafah, ahead of the looming Israeli invasion and evacuation order.

The images, taken first on 5 May and then on 8 May, show the change on the ground after Israel issued its first evacuation order for the city on 6 May.

In the three days between the photos, at least half of the hundreds of tents the area disappeared, likely from Palestinians packing up and departing.

It remains unclear where Gazans have evacuated or fled to, as UN agencies have consistently warned that food and other essentials are scarce in the enclave.

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