US offers Israel intel on Hamas leaders in exchange for limited Rafah op

The Cradle, May 12, 2024 ─ 

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that intelligence to locate Hamas leaders was already being given to Israel.

The US has offered Israel “sensitive intel” on the whereabouts of Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip if it agrees not to launch a full-scale assault on the southernmost city of Rafah, according to an 11 May Washington Post report. 

Four sources are quoted by the outlet as saying that Washington “is offering Israel valuable assistance if it holds back, including sensitive intelligence to help the Israeli military pinpoint the location of Hamas leaders and find the group’s hidden tunnels.”

Washington Post also said the US offered to erect large encampments for Palestinians who have already fled the besieged southern city, as well as help build infrastructure for providing aid to Gaza. 

Another official said Israel has given assurances to the US that its army will not fully invade Rafah until around 800,000 of the over one million stranded civilians trapped in the city are evacuated. 

On Thursday, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said intelligence to locate Hamas leaders was already being given to Israel. 

“We could also, in fact, help them target the leaders, including [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar, which we are, frankly, doing with the Israelis on an ongoing basis,” Kirby said. 

The Israeli army stormed and seized the Rafah border crossing with Egypt last week in an operation reportedly aimed at pressuring Hamas in ongoing truce negotiations. It has since been indiscriminately bombarding the city, killing dozens of civilians, including children, and forcibly displacing tens of thousands. Israeli troops are now penetrating into eastern Rafah.

Israel has been claiming for months that Rafah is Hamas’ final stronghold, and has long been promising an invasion there, despite the fact that the group’s armed wing and other factions remain entrenched across the strip. It has also previously said that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is hiding in Rafah. 

Sources told Israeli media on 11 May that Sinwar is not in Rafah, but is instead hiding in tunnels in the city of Khan Yunis. On 24 April, a Hamas source told The New Arab that Sinwar is “leading the movement on the ground,” is not hiding in tunnels, and has met with fighters “above ground.”

Since the operation in Rafah began, Hamas’ armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, has been fiercely confronting Israeli troops there, as well as in northern Gaza – where Israel says Hamas has regrouped months after claiming it was defeated in the north. 

Hamas’ Qassam Brigades struck Israeli forces with heavy-caliber mortar shells in Al-Zaytoun neighborhood on 12 May, the group said in a statement. It also targeted Israeli forces near Jabalia refugee camp in the north. 

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement’s Quds Brigades targeted Israeli army concentrations in eastern Rafah with rockets on Sunday. 

The night before, the Qassam Brigades launched mortars at Israeli vehicles and troop gatherings east of the Rafah border crossing. 

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