Israeli war cabinet approves ‘expansion’ of Rafah operation

The Cradle, May 10, 2024 ─ 

Israeli bombs continue to rain down on displaced Palestinians as humanitarian groups warn that a new blockade on aid deliveries threatens to push the entire Gaza Strip into famine.

The Israeli war cabinet on 9 May approved the “expansion of the area of ​​operation” of the Israeli army in the Palestinian city of  Rafah, according to three unnamed sources who spoke with Axios.

Two of the sources said the expansion – described as “measured” – would not cross US President Joe Biden’s recently imposed “red line,” while the third told Axios the move “could be seen as crossing the line.”

The war cabinet, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and opposition leader Benny Gantz, also instructed “Israeli negotiations to continue efforts to reach a captive deal.”

Ultranationalist officials Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich voted against this decision but were reportedly outnumbered.

Biden drew the ire of Israeli authorities earlier this week when he announced that his government would not support or provide weapons for an expanded Israeli assault on Rafah.

“If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone. If we need to, we will fight with our fingernails. But we have much more than fingernails,” Netanyahu said on Thursday.

Nevertheless, the Israeli premier left the door open for a reconciliation with his main ally: “We often had our agreements, but we’ve had our disagreements. We’ve been able to overcome them.”

The Israeli military markedly intensified its operations in Rafah over the past week, carpet bombing several areas in the critically overcrowded city and killing displaced Palestinians by the dozens.

Over 100,000 people have already fled the southern city.

Tel Aviv also violently took control of the Rafah border crossing in response to Hamas accepting a ceasefire deal that could have brought an end to the war.

As of Friday, lines of trucks carrying humanitarian aid remained stuck outside the besieged enclave as the Israeli army has blocked the entry of all humanitarian assistance for over two million Palestinians on the verge of starvation.

“The closure of the border crossing is not good for all these trucks because these are fridges, which means machine failure doesn’t give a warning. If the [fridge] stops working, then all of the food inside will be ruined,” trucker Ahmed al-Bayoumi told Reuters.

UN aid agencies warned on Friday that the dwindling food and fuel stocks could force aid operations to grind to a halt within days in Gaza.

As Tel Aviv continues to perpetuate the measures fueling a dire humanitarian crisis inside Gaza, Washington is expected to deliver a report that “absolves” Israel of responsibility for any war crimes.

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