Analysis: Is a full-scale Israeli ground offensive in Rafah even possible? - M5 Dergi
Defence NewsÖne Çıkan

Analysis: Is a full-scale Israeli ground offensive in Rafah even possible?

Abone Ol 

Such a move would risk Palestinian lives, spark a crisis with Egypt, compromise the search for hostages and sink the possibility of regional normalisation, warns one analyst.

Israel’s barbaric attacks in Rafah this week have already resulted in over a hundred Palestinian deaths and have been met with widespread castigation in the Middle East and beyond. The attacks are a precursor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned ground offensive there, which he said is necessary to defeat Hamas.

The planned action has prompted South Africa, which had previously petitioned the International Court of Justice about Israel’s genocidal acts in Gaza, to once again request intervention.

Yet, despite international pressure and the ICJ verdict, the Netanyahu administration remains defiant by working towards achieving “total victory.” This is a fantasy, as the PM, his war cabinet and advisors are ignoring several variables which make “victory” impossible.

Firstly, the Netanyahu administration fails to recognize that since the assault on Gaza began in October, the population in Rafah has swelled from a few hundred thousand people to 1.4 million Palestinians.

Israel said attacking Rafah through air and ground assaults is necessary based on the alleged presence of four Hamas brigades within the population. It also pledged to accompany its assaults with a so-called plan to evacuate civilians. None of this will work.

The nation’s “evacuation of civilians” claim is actually a cover-up of its “acceptable loss margin” strategy, which it has adopted throughout its approach in Gaza, while pursuing one or more Hamas targets.

Applying this strategy to densely populated Rafah would mean incurring a high degree of civilian casualties, just to root out one or two Hamas operatives, as per Israeli claims.

Even if taken at face value, Israel will be operating in an area where brigades will be difficult to locate, with heavy losses for the Israeli army expected. Hamas would be more inclined to attack if civilians in Rafah are targeted with impunity.

The veracity of Israeli claims on the presence of Hamas in Rafah however, remains questionable. Israel’s statements about neutralising “terrorist battalions” have vacillated from confirmation to denial, as was the case in northern Gaza.

Lacking clarity could compromise the ground assault as it becomes impossible for the Israeli army to achieve its so-called desirable results in the absence of Palestinian casualties and in the presence of Hamas. More Israeli military deaths would contribute to Netanyahu’s declining popularity at home and could stymie the offensive midway into the city.

Then comes Netanyahu’s quest for securing hostages through this ground offensive, which in truth, is only possible through international mediation, not coercion.

Talks in Cairo between Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the United States could easily be jeopardised by Netanyahu’s reckless adventurism which once again compromises his domestic standing and leaves Israeli hostages in limbo.

According to the Lazar Institute Poll in January 2024, only 31 percent of Israelis saw Netanyahu’s premiership as desirable. The results come amid disagreements between ministers on trying to push for a deal to ensure the return of hostages from Hamas. By attacking Rafah full scale, Netanyahu risks losing out on securing all hostages for miniscule gains.

Now, assuming that Israel targets civilians in Rafah without concern about the consequences, few can deny the city’s close geographical proximity to Egypt.

The latest assault resulted in Cairo mobilising its forces along its border with Israel with the deployment of 40 tanks, including rapid fortifications on the Sinai side, and coupled with threats to suspend the Camp David Accords, a decades-old peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

Egypt has warned that the agreement would be suspended if Israel occupies the Philadelphi Corridor, or the narrow strip of land running through its border with Gaza.

Another unacceptable outcome for Egypt would be if the border with Israel was breached and Palestinians poured into the country. Attacking Rafah full throttle would ensure an exodus of Palestinians into Egypt, which would test regional peace and threaten to upend the Camp David Accords.

The full measure of Camp David’s legacy depends on its vision for regional peace, including a just solution for the Palestinians. Egypt’s national security being threatened through attacks in Rafah undercuts that vision and Cairo’s mobilisation of forces in the absence of a peace agreement would come at a huge cost to Netanyahu’s government.

Then comes the risk of repeatedly flouting international humanitarian law, which Israel has done unabashedly. Rafah is home to over one million Palestinians who are living in close proximity to one another.

Close to 22,000 people are crowded into each of the city’s 64 square kilometres. Israeli attacks have only contributed to the humanitarian quagmire, and launching a full-fledged assault on the besieged and battered population would further earn the ire of the International Court of Justice.

Note that as per Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as Article 46 of the Hague Convention, the Israeli military is expected to respect persons, honour, family rights, manners, customs and religious convictions and practices in Rafah.

A full-scale attack by Israel would result in a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention, which further isolates Israel on the international front.

Israel’s quest for regional normalisation is also compromised through this ground assault. Note further that Jordan and Saudi Arabia have warned Israel about launching a ground offensive in Rafah. Jordan has bilateral relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia was seeking normalisation prior to October 2023. Offending these countries further weakens Netanyahu’s standing.

In conclusion, Israel cannot conduct a ground assault in Rafah because such an action would result in the breach of international humanitarian law, foment Egyptian border mobilisation, compromise the search for hostages and sink the possibility of regional normalisation.

Abone Ol 

Related Articles

Abone Ol 
Back to top button