The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office has instructed the armed forces to prepare a plan for an attack on Rafah, a town located on the Gaza border. Israel is yet to decide on the date of the attack, according to Haaretz, which cites insider sources.
One of the main concerns about this potential attack is that Israel and Egypt have not reached an agreement regarding the fate of the tunnel between Egypt and Gaza. Hamas is believed to have used these tunnels to smuggle weapons and other supplies into Gaza. A possible Israeli ground attack on Rafah could put more pressure on Hamas leaders and prompt them to show more flexibility in negotiations with Israel.
According to a statement from Netanyahu’s cabinet, the prime minister has ordered the armed forces to destroy four Hamas battalions in Rafah and evacuate civilians from the area before March 10th, before the start of Ramadan. Hamas has warned that such an attack could result in tens of thousands of casualties, and international actors have expressed concern about its potential effects. There are as many as hundreds of thousands of civilians in the Rafah area, and more than 28,000 people have already been killed in Israeli airstrikes and strikes through Saturday in response to the October attack by Hamas.