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IDF preparing for Rafah offensive by sending two reserve brigades to Gaza


By SamarPublished about a month ago 5 min read
In an undated military photo released for publication on April 24, 2024, troops are seen operating in Gaza.

In an apparent move toward an offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the Israel Defense Forces said on Wednesday that it was preparing to send two reserve brigades for missions in the Gaza Strip. The goal of the operation is to drive the Hamas terror group out of its last significant stronghold within the enclave.

According to an Army Radio report, the 2nd “Carmeli” Infantry Brigade and the 679th “Yiftah” Armored Brigade, which had been operating on the northern border, were scheduled to assume command of the areas of central Gaza that have remained under Israeli military control since troops largely withdrew from other areas of the Strip earlier this month.

According to military sources, the action will allow Nahal Brigade troops, who are currently occupying the central corridor, to join the rest of the 162nd Division in getting ready for upcoming operations, such as anticipated offensives in central Gaza and Rafah.

The two reserve brigades "prepared in recent weeks for their mission in the Gaza Strip," according to an IDF statement.

"They exercised combat tactics and acquired the primary understandings and teachings from combat and maneuvering in the Gaza Strip thus far," the military stated.

The 99th Division was to assume command of the mobilized brigades. The division was assigned responsibility for the east-west Netzarim corridor in the central Gaza Strip during the initial months of the IDF's ground offensive.

According to Army Radio, one of the brigades will be sent back to the east-west belt that splits the Strip in two, and the other will guard a pier that the US is building on the coast of central Gaza with the intention of increasing humanitarian aid deliveries.

Constructed along a road south of Gaza City, the corridor gives Israel control over access to the north for Palestinians attempting to return after fleeing south while enabling the IDF to conduct raids in northern and central Gaza.

Israel has stated that capturing Rafah, dismantling the terrorist organization, and freeing any hostages there are prerequisites for winning the Gaza war, which was started in response to Hamas's cross-border killing and kidnapping rampage on October 7.

Six battalions of Hamas are reportedly still in the Gaza Strip, four of which are located in the city of Rafah in the south: Yabna (South), Shaboura (North), Tel Sultan (West), and East Rafah, according to Israeli officials. In the camps of Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, there are still two Hamas battalions.

As of right now, the IDF has conducted operations in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, parts of central Gaza, and both northern and Gaza City. It claims to have dismantled the eighteen Hamas battalions stationed there.

An estimated million displaced Gazan civilians have fled into Rafah as a result of the fighting, and the international community—including the US—has warned that an offensive in the city could seriously exacerbate the already serious humanitarian situation.

Rafah's neighbor, Egypt, said it had advised Israel against advancing into the city. The State Information Service of Egypt declared that such a move "would lead to massive human massacres, losses [and] widespread destruction."

The Israeli military has been indicating that it is prepared to move on Rafah, even though it has not disclosed any specific battle plans. This comes after the military withdrew from the offensive for more than a month in order to facilitate truce negotiations intended to release the 133 hostages believed to be still in the Strip and to address US concerns regarding its intentions to fight in the city.

"Hamas suffered severe damage in the northern sector. In the middle of the Strip, it was also severely struck. In an interview broadcast on Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Itzik Cohen, commander of the 162nd Division operating in Gaza, told the Kan public broadcaster that "it will soon be hit hard in Rafah, too."

"Hamas ought to be aware that it would be best for the IDF to raise its hands in surrender when it enters Rafah. Rafah will change from who he is now. There won't be any weapons present. Additionally, hostages won't be present," he declared.

According to Israeli sources on Wednesday, Israel has purchased tens of thousands of tents for the Palestinian civilians it plans to evacuate from Rafah in the upcoming weeks.

According to Israeli government sources, Israel's Defense Ministry has purchased 40,000 tents, each of which can accommodate 10 to 12 people, for Palestinians who have been relocated from Rafah following weeks of negotiations with the US regarding civilian safeguards.

Online videos seemed to show rows of square white tents being set up in Khan Younis, a city about three miles (five kilometers) away from Rafah. Pictures from satellite provider Maxar displaying several tent settlements on Khan Younis territory that was abandoned on April 7.

According to official sources, the war cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to convene in the next two weeks to approve the evacuation of civilians as the initial phase of the Rafah sweep. The evacuations are anticipated to take approximately one month.

There was no immediate response from Netanyahu's office or the Defense Ministry.

The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, citing Israeli and Egyptian officials, reported that according to Israeli plans, the first two to three weeks of the operation in Rafah will be dedicated to the evacuation of civilians, in cooperation with the United States, Egypt, and other Arab nations.

According to reports, the evacuation will involve relocating civilians to other parts of Gaza, including the nearby city of Khan Younis, where Israel will erect tent shelters complete with food and medical supplies.

Following that, the officials stated that the IDF would progressively advance its forces into Rafah, focusing on locations where it thinks Hamas leaders and operatives may be hiding.

Additionally, Israel thinks that a large number of the 129 hostages that were taken during the October 7 atrocities, which were led by Hamas, are being held in Rafah.

When 3,000 terrorists stormed the Israeli border on October 7, in an unprecedented attack spearheaded by Hamas, the war in Gaza broke out, killing 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and kidnapping 253.

As a result of the Israeli offensive, over 33,000 people have died, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas. This number, which encompasses more than 13,000 terrorists Israel claims it has eliminated since the start of the conflict, cannot be independently confirmed.

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