With Hamas on the Ropes, Israel is Pressured To Stop While It's Ahead

Written by Jack Elbaum

What’s happening: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are preparing for a ground offensive in Rafah, Hamas’ last stronghold in the Gaza Strip.

  • Context: Israel has destroyed 18 of 24 Hamas battalions and has killed, wounded, or captured 60% of its fighters. Rafah is the last city where Hamas is a well-organized force, making its capture necessary to achieve what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls “total victory.”

Pressure: U.S. President Joe Biden has put pressure on Israel to delay the ground offensive, raising concerns over plans to evacuate civilians. Netanyahu has made it clear the operation will happen.

  • Not just Netanyahu: Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet and — prior to the war — a key opposition figure, has come out in agreement with Netanyahu that operating in Rafah is necessary to defeat Hamas despite U.S. concerns.

  • Rescue operation: On Monday, the IDF rescued two hostages held in a civilian building in Rafah. The rescue mission included a series of airstrikes, causing alarm among some in the international community.

Humanitarian concerns: There are over one million civilians in Rafah who have fled their homes in other areas of Gaza due to the war. While Israel is forming plans to evacuate them ahead of an invasion of the city, there are questions about how credible and well-thought-out those plans are.

  • Protecting civilians: Conversely, U.S. National Security spokesman John Kirby praised the Israeli military, saying, “We have seen [the IDF] take actions, sometimes actions that even I’m not sure our own military would take, in terms of informing civilian populations ahead of operations where to go, where not to go.”