Israel erects checkpoints to block Palestinian men from exiting Rafah: Report

The Cradle, April 30. 2024 ─ 

Israel is establishing a complex system of checkpoints that will prevent men of “military age” from escaping Rafah ahead of Israel’s planned ground assault on the southern Gaza border city, Middle East Eye (MEE) reported on 30 April. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior western official familiar with Israel’s military plans told MEE the checkpoints will allow some women and children to flee Rafah, but unarmed, civilian Palestinian men will be separated from their families and forced to remain in Rafah during the assault.

Israel’s construction of a ring of checkpoints around Rafah is a further indication that plans to assault the city are moving ahead. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been threatening to invade Rafah for months, and Israeli negotiators have sought to use the threat as leverage to compel Hamas to release captives it is holding in Gaza. 

Netanyahu’s threats have been met by warnings from the international community that any invasion of Rafah would be a “bloodbath,” killing large numbers of civilians. An invasion would also displace, yet again, the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced to flee their homes in north Gaza due to Israeli bombing and are now living in makeshift tent cities in Rafah.

When Israel bombed and invaded north Gaza, it told Palestinians to flee south, often bombing the roads it said would be safe.

Israel also detained thousands of civilian men, stripping them to their underwear, blindfolding them, and forcing them to kneel in the streets. Israeli forces then took them to unknown detainment camps in trucks, where they were interrogated and often tortured. The Israeli military released footage of dozens of those detainees, blindfolded and stripped, allowing the humiliation to be broadcast widely on satellite news channels and social media. 

One man told Reuters that he and his brothers were detained in early December after the Israeli military encircled the area where they lived and worked as day laborers in Gaza City’s Al-Zaytoun neighborhood.

He said four soldiers beat him after he was unable to climb onto a truck due to a leg injury and that he was then taken to an open area where Israeli guards were “smoking and putting out cigarettes on our backs, spraying sand and water on us, urinating on us.”

The system of checkpoints being established suggests the Israeli army may carry out similar detentions of civilian men seeking to escape Rafah with their families.

“Israel considers every male a Hamas fighter until proven otherwise,” Abbas Dahouk, a former senior military advisor at the US State Department, told MEE.

“It’s not a sound move. Cordoning Rafah is a daunting task, and good luck separating fathers and sons from their families.”

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