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Israel has launched a ground operation in the area of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, ignoring all international warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) launched the operation on May 6, a day after four of its troops were killed and wounded around ten others in a rocket attack on the southern Israeli area of Kerem Shalom which was launched by the Hamas Movement from Rafah.

More than 1,4 million Palestinains who had been taking refuge in Rafah were ordered by the IDF to evacuate to a “‘humanitarian zone” in the al-Mawasi area and other parts of central Gaza and Khan Yunis city in the southern part of the Strip. This so-called humanitarian zone is heavily bombarded, badly-serviced and lacks proper resources.

The IDF struck Rafah at least 50 times during the initial push. Later that day, Israeli troops entered the outskirts of Rafah and approached the Rafah Border Crossing and Egyptian border. 20 Hamas fighters were killed in the operation, according to the IDF.

Hamas announced that it had accepted an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal in a last ditch effort to stop the invasion, but this was ignored by Israel.

On the morning of May 7, the IDF captured the Rafah crossing. Hamas and other Palestinian armed factions shelled advancing Israeli troops and Kerem Shalom from Rafah again.

Israel’s Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant, stated that the operation wouldn’t stop unless Hamas was eliminated or hostages were released.

Later however, Hebrew media reported that control of the Rafah crossing would be handed over to an American private firm, and that the operation was limited and intended to exert pressure on Hamas.

John Kirby, the White House National Security Communications Advisor, confirmed that Israel had told the United States that the operation was limited and intended to prevent smuggling of arms and money into Gaza, with negotiations for the release of Israeli hostages and a ceasefire resuming. No more advance was reported on May 8.

Since its start, the operation has claimed the lives of 30 civilians, mostly women and children, and wounded more than 150 others. The losses from the operation and recent Israeli strikes brought the Palestinian toll from the Israeli war on Gaza to 34,789.

The Israeli invasion of Rafah led to a serious escalation on other fronts. The Iran-linked Islamic resistance in Iraq launched eight attacks against Israel after the start of the operation. Hezbollah also escalated attacks against the IDF from southern Lebanon.

Despite failing to achieve any of its goals, Israel will likely go on with its operations in Rafah. The operation will not weaken Hamas, but it will worsen the humanitarian situation in Gaza as it will give Israel and the U.S. full control over aid entering the Strip.

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