Israel bracing for six-week Rafah operation immediately after Ramzan

IANS Photo

Tel Aviv, March 28 (IANS) The Israel government is bracing for a final operation in the Rafah region in Gaza bordering Egypt where it believes that most of the Israeli hostages and their handlers are.

According to sources in Israel's defense ministry, the country is gearing up for such an operation and it was all along its plan B, if talks in Qatar failed.

Indirect peace talks in Qatar had hit a roadblock after Israel refused most of the demands put forward by negotiators on behalf of Hamas.

After the talks failed, Israel activated its Plan B and would conduct a military operation three days after the end of Ramadan month.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Israeli intelligence have briefed the war cabinet on the outcome of the incursion as well as the logistics involved.

Rafah is a densely populated area and an expected 1.3 million Palestinians are living in this region in makeshift tents and regular buildings.

Most of the displaced Palestinians from north and central Gaza have moved to the Rafah region which is the southernmost tip of the Gaza Strip.

The Israel army has informed the war cabinet that it has a clear cut plan with all the logistics to shift the civilian population from Gaza.

The army will conduct surveillance using high end cameras mounted atop drones to monitor the movement of civilians from the Rafah area to make sure that no Israeli hostage is taken out from the region.

The IDF has a clear assessment on the strength of Hamas in the region and according to its information-revealed by defense ministry sources, Hamas has only four battalions remaining in the Rafah area.

Meanwhile, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has conveyed to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi that Israel was forced to attack the Rafah region as all other options for the release of hostages have failed.

In a related development, former Hamas chief Khaled Mashal, in a speech at Amman, Jordan, said that Israel was preparing for a major offensive after the end of Ramzan and added that Hamas would fight the battle.