Mon, May

War Criminals': IDF Strikes Rafah After Hamas Agrees to Cease-Fire


WAR WATCH - Israel on Monday launched long-awaited strikes on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip despite Hamas publicly confirming it agreed to a cease-fire and hostage release proposal from Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

The Israel Defense Forces said on social media that "the IDF is currently conducting targeted strikes against Hamas terror targets in eastern Rafah," the city to which over a million Palestinians have fled since October 7, when Israel launched a retaliatory war that has already killed at least 34,735 people in Gaza and wounded another 78,108.

Earlier Monday, the IDF had dropped leaflets directing residents and refugees in that part of Rafah to relocate to a strip along Gaza's coast, ignoring warnings from the international community and humanitarian groups that a full-scale Israeli attack on the crowded city would further endanger civilians and relief efforts.

"It is obvious Netanyahu wants this genocidal war to continue indefinitely so that he can remain in power."

In addition to sparking outrage around the world, the Israeli government's Rafah attack and rejection of the Hamas-backed proposal was met with criticism from people across Israel. The Associated Pressreported that "thousands of Israelis rallied around the country Monday night calling for an immediate deal to release the hostages still held in the Gaza Strip."

Ofer Cassif, a member of the Knesset who was almost expelled by fellow Israeli lawmakers earlier this year for backing South Africa's ongoing genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), again called out his own government.

"Israeli tanks and infantry enter east Rafah while planes bomb from above, just hours after Hamas' decision to accept the hostages/prisoners exchange deal," Cassif said Monday. "Why? Because killing Palestinians is more important for the Israeli government than saving Israelis. War criminals!"

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that "the War Cabinet unanimously decided this evening Israel will continue its operation in Rafah, in order to apply military pressure on Hamas so as to advance the release of our hostages and achieve the other objectives of the war."

Along with the prime minister, Israel's War Cabinet includes Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Benny Gantz, former IDF chief of the general staff, along with three observers. 

Netanyahu added that "while the Hamas proposal is far from meeting Israel's core demands, Israel will dispatch a ranking delegation to Egypt in an effort to maximize the possibility of reaching an agreement on terms acceptable to Israel."

This stuff doesn't fool anybody anymore. Israel rejected the deal. Netanyahu said so publicly. There's no ruse.

Reuters reported that "an Israeli official said the deal was not acceptable to Israel because terms had been 'softened.'"

According to the news outlet, the first part of a three-phase plan that Hamas—which has controlled Gaza for nearly two decades—agreed to includes a 42-day pause in fighting, the release of 33 hostages held by the group and some Palestinians in Israeli jails, a partial IDF withdrawal, and free movement in the besieged enclave.

Phase two would be "another 42-day period that features an agreement to restore a 'sustainable calm' to Gaza, language that an official briefed on the talks said Hamas and Israel had agreed in order to take discussion of a 'permanent cease-fire' off the table," Reuters detailed. This phase also includes withdrawing most Israeli troops and Hamas releasing some soldiers and reservists.

The third phase would involve the exchange of bodies; reconstruction of Gaza overseen by Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations; and ending the complete blockade on the strip, the outlet added.

Shortly before Israel's Monday night strikes on Rafah began, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said that the U.N. chief "reiterates his pressing call to both the government of Israel and the leadership of Hamas to go the extra mile needed to make an agreement come true and stop the present suffering."

Expressing concern about the then-imminent Israeli operation in Rafah, the spokesperson said that "we are already seeing movements of people—many of these people are in desperate humanitarian condition and have been repeatedly displaced. They search safety that has been so many times denied. The secretary-general reminds the parties that the protection of civilians is paramount in international humanitarian law."

Other U.N. officials have been warning of what an assault on Rafah will mean for the over 1.4 million Palestinians there, among them 600,000 children. So have humanitarian and political leaders, including U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who on Monday urged President Joe Biden to stand by his earlier position that attacking the city was a "red line" and "end all offensive military aid to Israel."

Council on American-Islamic Relations national executive director Nihad Awad issued a similar call Monday evening, warning that "the Israeli government is hellbent on using American financial, military, and diplomatic support to ethnically cleanse what remains of Gaza and commit another massacre."

"President Biden must stand up to Benjamin Netanyahu and take concrete action to end the genocide now," Awad continued, nodding to the Israeli leader's legal trouble. The prime minister faces not only potential consequences on a global scale for what the ICJ has deemed a "plausibly" genocidal war on Gaza but also a corruption trial in his own country.

"It is obvious Netanyahu wants this genocidal war to continue indefinitely so that he can remain in power, avoid jail, and fulfill his racist, far-right Cabinet's demands for the complete destruction of Gaza and the massacre of its people," Awad said. "It is long past time for President Biden to end our nation's complicity in this 21st-century genocide."

Biden spoke with Netanyahu by phone ahead of the IDF strikes on Monday and "reiterated his clear position on Rafah," according to a White House readout. They also discussed the hostage negotiations, humanitarian aid, the Holocaust, and antisemitism.

Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, also suggested that the Israeli prime minister wants the bloodshed in Gaza to continue for personal reasons.

"Netanyahu does not want an end to the war because the moment the war ends, his political career ends as well. And his prison sentence will commence," said Parsi. "Yet, Biden has for seven months deferred to Netanyahu."


(Jessica Corbett is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams where this was first published.)

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