Israel Announces It Will Attack Gaza Border City of Rafah

Around 1.5 million Palestinians have fled other areas of Gaza to Rafah

The head of Israeli defense has declared victory over the city of Khan Younis and vowed his forces would attack Rafah next. Rafah is the last city in Gaza not completely destroyed by the ongoing Israeli military campaign. About 75 percent of the Strip’s population is currently sheltering in that city.

On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel was winning in Khan Younis, and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) would move on to Rafah. “We are achieving our missions in Khan Younis, and we will also reach Rafah and eliminate terror elements that threaten us,” he proclaimed.

When Israel began its military campaign in Gaza, it ordered all Palestinians to leave the northern half of the Gaza Strip. Most of the internally displaced Gazans fled to Khan Younis, the largest city in the southern half of the Strip. Now, following the IDF bombardment of the city, most residents and refugees have fled, many to Rafah.

The last remaining city and refugee camp in Gaza is Rafah, a city along the enclave’s border with Egypt. Before the war, Rafah was home to 250,000 people. Currently 1.7 million Palestinians are packed into the city. Jens Laerke, a UN spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, explained, “Rafah is now a pressure cooker of despair, and we fear for what happens next.”

“As soon as you arrive through Rafah, what hits you straight away is the immensity of the people who are displaced: every street, every pavement,” UN official James McGoldrick said earlier this month. “They also have these makeshift tents built onto the side of buildings encroaching on the roads. It’s very hard to move around. The place is really, really packed.”

Tareq Abu Azzoum, reporting for Al-Jazeera from Rafah, said Palestinians are in disbelief at Gallant’s declaration and wondering where to go. “Now, with this statement by the Israeli defense minister, it seems they have no other place to go to,” Azzoum said, continuing, “People will not be able to find proper civil infrastructure to depend on if they return back again to these areas… It seems that we’ll have more death among civilians.”

It is unclear where Israel expects the Palestinians to go. Since the start of the conflict, the IDF has barred Palestinians from returning to areas has Israel conquered. Even if Palestinians were allowed to return, much of the infrastructure has been destroyed. Haaretz reports the IDF has even ordered soldiers to burn Palestinian homes to the ground when they withdraw from an area.

Gallant has claimed that Israel needs to attack Rafah to rescue hostages held by Hamas. “The great pressure that the forces exert on Hamas targets brings us closer to the return of the abductees, more than anything else,” he said. “We will continue until the end, there is no other way.”

The IDF has yet to rescue a signal hostage through its military operations in Gaza. The IDF has killed several hostages, including three who escaped and were waving white flags. Hamas has offered to release the hostages if Israel ends the war and allows aid into Gaza.

The IDF has killed at least 27,000 Palestinians in Gaza, including 11,500 children in the past four months. Most of the buildings in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed. Most of the Strip’s hospitals are no longer functional. Women cannot safely give birth, and children undergo amputations without anesthesia.

While Israel has systematically destroyed the Strip and driven the Palestinians into famine, the White House has refused to pull the billions in military support the US provides to Tel Aviv. Although the White House claims it is pressuring Israel to take a more targeted military approach, a review of satellite images by the Guardian shows the Israel operations have destroyed most of the infrastructure in north and south Gaza, making it uninhabitable for the millions of Palestinians that live there.

Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of, news editor of the Libertarian Institute, and co-host of Conflicts of Interest.