Can the offensive in Rafah be prevented?

Israel's announced offensive in Rafah has triggered a wave of international concern. South Africa has once again filed an urgent request with the highest UN court to block the move. At the same time negotiations are underway in Cairo regarding a ceasefire and an exchange of hostages held by Hamas. Commentators discuss whether these measures can guarantee the security of the more than 1.3 million displaced persons in Rafah.

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The Economist (GB) /

There is still hope

A humanitarian disaster in Rafah can be averted, The Economist believes:

“The return of Israeli officials to Cairo on February 13th for further negotiations reflects the Israeli assessment that Hamas's demand is just an opening gambit and that a deal can be reached on a temporary truce. Israeli officials believe that Hamas's need to regroup and provide the population with some desperately needed respite before the holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to start on March 10th, could force it to show more flexibility on hostage negotiations. To avoid hell in Rafah, one side needs to blink first.”

Observator Cultural (RO) /

Only might is right with terrorists

Observatorul cultural considers it unlikely that Hamas is prepared to make concessions:

“One thing must not be forgotten: for the Hamas leaders, the fact that tens of thousands of civilians have died in Gaza is of no great consequence. They see them merely as victims for the cause and as a very good propaganda tool for the outside world. In this war Hamas has not supported the civilians; on the contrary, it has sought to be as close to them as possible to turn them into human shields. Hamas is a terrorist organisation that cannot be reasoned with. One can only deal with it from a position of strength. And Netanyahu knows that better than anyone.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Hamas could end the war tomorrow

Die Welt says there is no alternative to the invasion of Rafah:

“It is indicative of the rotten state of international institutions that hardly anyone is calling for the obvious solution to put an end to this war. Because it could be over tomorrow if Hamas were to lay down its arms, release the remaining hostages and hand over the murderers of 7 October. Until that happens, Israel must do what is necessary to free the hostages and banish the threat of terror. And that includes the conquest of Rafah.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Evacuation of civilians hardly possible

Gazeta Wyborcza finds Netanyahu's assurances unconvincing:

“In recent days Netanyahu has repeated that the army would attack the city while at the same time offering assurances that the civilian population would be evacuated. However his words do not sound plausible, because a glance at the map suffices to see that there is no place for these people to take refuge. To the north of Rafah are the Israeli army and the completely destroyed villages from which they have fled; to the south lies Egypt, which has no intention of allowing Palestinian refugees into its territory.”

The Times (GB) /

An open trap

Israel cannot go on as before in Rafah, former Tory Foreign Secretary William Hague writes in The Times:

“Absolute victory can be attained over an army on a battlefield, but not over an insurgency that draws its strength from an idea, rooted in a population. To be victorious over that, wise politics has to accompany the application of force. To roll the Israel Defence Forces into Rafah with the same approach of recent months is to ignore such politics. ... It would be a terrible error for Israel to narrow further the space for a [long-term, peaceful] solution, unwittingly resigning itself to more wars that cannot be deterred and in which absolute victory is impossible. The trap lies open before it. The future of the Middle East might well depend on the fate of Rafah.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Washington's words falling on deaf ears

US foreign policy in the region is having little success at the moment, notes Corriere della Sera:

“Joe Biden's Middle East strategy is in serious trouble in all areas. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's recent trip to the region has not changed the Israeli prime minister's position. ... According to US media reports, the American president is on the verge of breaking ties with the Israeli government. That would be a dramatic rupture of historic proportions. But that is not the only risk in this area. According to reports, it appears that the meeting between Blinken and President Al-Sisi in Cairo on 7 February was also not so friendly.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Stop arms deliveries to Israel

Le Soir demands concrete action from the West:

“The Israeli prime minister has promised to spare civilians the worst. But they've already had very bitter experiences with such promises. And what is the world doing? Expressing its 'concern'! And warning that such an offensive would lead to an 'indescribable humanitarian catastrophe', as EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell put it. Joe Biden himself has said that 'there are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it's gotta stop.' The levers are there: stop supplying weapons to the Jewish state, as Josep Borrell himself suggests.” (HR) /

Cairo fears a flood of refugees

Egypt has threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if Israel attacks Rafah. Index looks at why:

“It wouldn't be a big problem for Cairo if the Palestinians were to stay in the Sinai Peninsula and return to the Gaza Strip after some time has elapsed. But what will happen if all these people, many of them armed, move in the direction of Cairo? How are you supposed to stop a crowd of one or two million people? Moreover, the Palestinians have a bad reputation for instigating revolts and civil wars. [They participated in] the civil war in Jordan in 1970. ... So it's not surprising that Egypt's political and military leadership want to stop the influx of one million Palestinians at any cost. ... Even if it means an open war with Israel.”