How Israel Can Solve Its Gaza Problem

April 3, 2024 | Amos Yadlin and Udi Evental
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On Monday, the Israeli and U.S. national security advisors, along with other senior officials, had a video call in which they discussed the IDF’s current plans to evacuate civilians from Rafah, the city on the southern tip of Gaza where Hamas’s military strength is now concentrated. Israeli television reported that the American participants rejected the plan, and that their reaction was “harsh.” But, absent a Hamas surrender, one way or another the IDF will have to find have to find a way to deal with the terrorists in the city.

Amos Yadlin and Udi Evental explain that such an operation is necessary to eliminate the four Hamas battalions in Rafah, to kill or capture the group’s other leaders, and if possible to free the remaining hostages. There is yet another reason, which, Yadlin and Evental claim, is “far more important,” namely

the need to cut off the smuggling routes from the Sinai, aboveground and primarily underground, along the Egypt-Gaza border (the “Philadelphi” route). This smuggling activity has enabled Hamas to amass an enormous quantity of weaponry, which the citizens of Israel and IDF forces have encountered in the war. Without thoroughly addressing this issue, the smuggling tunnels will enable Hamas to reap profits, receive assistance from its supporters in the Muslim world, and ultimately restore its military capacity and resume its military buildup.

It should also be emphasized that complete Israeli control in Rafah does not guarantee the success of blocking the smuggling tunnels and effectively monitoring the Rafah crossing (and the adjacent Saladin Gate). These objectives depend, in part, on effective action by Egyptian forces on the other side of the border, who rake in profits from the smuggling and conduct a policy of calibrating pressures vis-à-vis Gaza.

They go on to explain how Jerusalem might deal with this diplomatic and military conundrum:

[T]he threat of an extensive operation in Rafah serves as leverage vis-à-vis Hamas in the context of a hostage deal. The IDF should take advantage of the Ramadan period to start to evacuate civilians and amass forces along the outskirts of Rafah.

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