IDF Evacuates Nearly One Million People in Rafah

By Yoni Weiss

Palestinians carry their furniture in trucks and flee from the east of the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 9. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israel has successfully evacuated around 950,000 Palestinian civilians within two weeks since May 6, the IDF announced on Monday. This includes substantial progress in the Rafah area, where approximately 30-40% is now under IDF control, and 60-70% has been completely evacuated. The remaining civilians, estimated at 300,000-400,000, are primarily near the Tel al-Sultan area by the Gaza coast.

Despite U.S. predictions of a prolonged and deadly evacuation process, the majority of those evacuated moved northwest to al-Muwasi, with fewer relocating to central Gaza or returning to Khan Yunis.

In Rafah, the IDF encountered significant resistance from Hamas battalions but managed to surprise and fragment their forces. Initial unified resistance has diminished, with many Hamas terrorists fleeing, hiding, or preparing for guerilla tactics.

Additionally, the IDF has taken control of most of the Philadelphi Corridor with Egypt, destroying numerous cross-border tunnels used by Hamas for weapon smuggling. Although tensions with Egypt arose over the operation and humanitarian concerns, military relations on the ground remain stable, with no violent incidents between Israeli and Egyptian forces.

The IDF is yet to provide updates on the status of hostages held in Rafah or the whereabouts of Gaza Chief Yahya Sinwar. It’s possible that hostages and Sinwar have been moved with the evacuating civilians.

The operation in Rafah has been complex, with the IDF achieving significant victories while avoiding any risk of misfire near Egyptian troops. A large quantity of rockets and rocket platforms has been seized and destroyed, particularly long-range rockets that could have posed a major threat.

In addition to Rafah, the IDF successfully reinvaded Jabalia, evacuating civilians rapidly and uncovering new tunnels and a nascent Hamas command center. Unlike Rafah, Hamas fighters in Jabalia have fewer opportunities to flee.

The IDF also targeted and dismantled Hamas battalions in central Gaza through a combination of airstrikes and targeted invasions. With smaller forces needed for these attacks, the IDF is nearing the dismantling of all 24 Hamas battalions.

This progress signals the potential achievement of the first war goal: toppling Hamas as a military organization. However, other goals, such as removing Hamas as a political authority and securing the return of hostages, remain unresolved. Predictions indicate that combating a Hamas insurgency may require significant military resources at least until October and possibly beyond.

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