Israel Seizes Control of Rafah Crossing

Israel has seized control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, effectively isolating Gaza from the world.

Establishing Control

Israel occupied the Palestinian side of the crossing point after claiming it was being used for “terror purposes,” and that Hamas had launched attacks from the area of the crossing, including Hamas’ attack on Sunday that led to the deaths of four Israeli soldiers, and injury of ten others.

The Rafah border crossing was the primary entry point of aid into Gaza. Seizing control of the crossing gives Israel complete control over what enters or leaves Gaza, and completely isolates Gaza from any foreign nation. The attack by Israel upon the crossing has resulted in its closure.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, this closure prevented 120 patients from transferring out of Gaza into Egypt. None of Gaza’s hospitals are functioning at full capacity, with a number shutting down completely. As such, Egypt has been accepting hospital patients through the Rafah crossing. However, these patient transfers are now being blocked. It is unclear when the crossing will open, and if the rules on what can enter or leave Gaza will change considering the Israeli control of the Palestinian side of the border.

“The situation of patients in Gaza hospitals has been very difficult since the beginning of the war due to the loss of medical equipment and the total collapse of the health system. We have travel lists for sick and injured people in the thousands. And now they are prevented from leaving” -Gaza Ministry of Health

The seizure has been condemned by Egypt, among a number of other nations. US State Department Spokesman, Matthew Miller, said the occupation was a “legitimate goal” by Israel in order to deprive Hamas control of the crossing.

“Hamas did control the Gaza side of Rafah crossing, and Hamas was continuing to collect revenue from that crossing being open. So it is a legitimate goal to try and deprive Hamas from revenue, money that they could use to continue to finance their terrorist activities. That said, we want to see the crossing open, and we’re gonna work to try to get it back open” -US State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller

The spokesman reiterated that the US was opposed to an Israeli invasion of Rafah, but that it did not believe the seizure of the crossing to be a part of that invasion.

The seizure comes amidst fears that Israel’s assault upon Rafah will begin soon. Israel on Monday ordered the evacuation of areas of eastern Rafah, amounting to approximately 100,000 people. Soon after, Israel has launched an extensive bombing campaign on areas within eastern Rafah, claiming to have killed a number of Hamas militants in their operations.

Israeli troops earlier today made an incursion into Rafah, which was followed by a heavy exchange of fire between the IDF and Hamas militants.

A Controversial Operation

The Israeli ground invasion of Rafah has been on the horizon for many weeks now. While Israel has remained insistent that it is a necessity, many different nations, including many traditional Israeli allies, have condemned the prospect.

Rafah, which lies in the very south of Gaza, was previously established earlier in the war by Israel to be a safe zone. As such, it has become host to approximately 1.4 million people; over half of Gaza’s population.

As previously stated, Rafah is a key basing ground for humanitarian operations in Gaza.  It is further host to a number of UNRWA camps. The UNRWA, as well as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, have stated an Israeli operation in Rafah would be the “nail in the coffin” for humanitarian operations in Gaza, which were already severely harmed. With the Israeli seizure of the Rafah crossing closing the crossing, the UN has demanded that Israel reopen the crossing as soon as possible. The Kerem Shalom crossing, which is near where Hamas attacked IDF troops on Sunday, has also remained closed since the attack, meaning significantly less aid is entering Gaza than usual. It is worth noting that the amount of aid entering Gaza was already insufficient.

A photo of a damaged UNRWA building within Gaza (Photo from AFP/Getty Images).

Israel has stated that the operation is necessary in order to destroy Hamas’ last remaining battalions. Netanyahu has claimed there are approximately four battalions left in Gaza, numbering thousands of militants. Furthermore, Israel believes many of the remaining approximately 130 hostages (of which, over 30 are believed to have died) are being held within Rafah.

The operation has been controversial due to the extremely high civilian presence within Gaza, as well as the effect an operation is sure to have upon humanitarian operations.  The US, among others, have claimed that the operation would be too costly in civilian lives.

It is unclear how effective evacuations will be in getting civilians out of harms way. Previously, in other evacuations, some civilians chose not to evacuate due to attacks and bombings ongoing on supposed evacuation routes, as well as within ‘safe zones’.

Civilians have been ordered to evacuate to al-Mawasi, further north and towards the coast within Gaza. The area has been established as a present safe zone, however has previously been subject to operations carried out by Israel, leading many to doubt the validity of al-Mawasi being a safe zone.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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