Report: Israel to Shelve Major Offensive Plans in Rafah

(IDF Spokesperson)

Israel has decided to shelve plans for a major offensive in the Gaza Strip’s southern city of Rafah, and will act in a more limited manner, after discussions with the U.S. on the matter, Washington Post analyst David Ignatius reported Monday.

Ignatius said, based on conversations with unidentified officials with knowledge of the matter, that a previous plan to send two divisions into the city will not move forward, and operations will instead be more restrained.

Washington believes the new plans will result in fewer civilian casualties and thus is not expected to oppose them, Ignatius wrote.

He wrote that after U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Saudi and Israeli officials this week, Washington had signposted “the direction of a gradual end to Israeli combat operations and the beginning of a still-fuzzy ‘day after.’”

The report said that unspecified Israeli defense officials have also agreed on how Gaza will look at the conclusion of the war.

“[It] will include a Palestinian security force drawn in part from the Palestinian Authority’s administrative payroll in Gaza. This Palestinian force will be overseen by a governing council of Palestinian notables, backed by moderate Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia,” Ignatius wrote. “Some Israeli officials — but not Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — accept that this governing entity would have ties with the PA in Ramallah.”

Ignatius said additionally that Hamas has signaled that it “might” accept this outline as part of a truce and hostage deal.

However, the columnist noted that Monday’s announcement by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, that he had requested arrest warrants from the court’s judges for Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with top Hamas leaders, could have an as yet unknown impact.

The report came after the Israeli military estimated that some 950,000 Palestinians had evacuated the Rafah area, as ground forces operate in the eastern part of the city.

The IDF claims it learned from past experiences when it came to evacuating the population in Rafah, which was carried out at a much faster pace than the United States had predicted.

Some 300,000 to 400,000 civilians remain in Rafah, mostly in the coastal area and some parts of the center of the city, according to information seen by The Times of Israel. More than a million Palestinians were sheltering in the city before the IDF entered the area.

The IDF believes that some Hamas operatives and members of other terror groups fled Rafah with the population to the humanitarian zone, as there are no Israeli checkpoints.

Rafah has been seen by the IDF as Hamas’s last major stronghold in Gaza, where four of its remaining battalions are located. Two more Hamas battalions remain in central Gaza, in the Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah camps.

Israel believes Hamas leaders and many terrorists are hiding in Rafah, and also that an unspecified number of the 124 remaining hostages kidnapped in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 atrocities are being held in the city.

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