World

MIDDLE EAST CRISIS UPDATE: 22 MARCH 2024

We will invade Rafah ‘even if the entire world turns on Israel’ – official; Blinken to meet Netanyahu

We will invade Rafah ‘even if the entire world turns on Israel’ – official; Blinken to meet Netanyahu
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer. (Photo: Bridget Bennett / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A top Israeli official said his country’s military was ultimately going to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah and defeat Hamas ‘even if the entire world turns on Israel, including the United States’.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced he would visit Israel later this week, as the Biden administration looks to blunt the impact on civilians if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes ahead with an invasion of Rafah.

European Union leaders were gathering on Thursday in Brussels at the beginning of a two-day summit, with the wars in Ukraine and Gaza front and centre.  

Israel ‘will invade Rafah’ no matter what the US says

A top Israeli official said his country’s military was ultimately going to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah and defeat Hamas “even if the entire world turns on Israel, including the United States”. 

“We are going to go in and finish this job, and anybody who doesn’t understand that, doesn’t understand that the existential nerve of the Jews was touched” by the 7 October attack when Hamas operatives killed 1,200 and abducted 250, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer said on a US podcast posted online on Thursday.  

A close confidant of Netanyahu, Dermer is headed to Washington early next week to listen to concerns from the Biden administration that such an invasion would cause many more civilian casualties at a time when famine and disease are spreading in Gaza. 

Blinken is in the region pushing for a deal between Israel and Hamas that would lead to a six-week ceasefire and an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners along with a big increase in humanitarian aid to the more than 2 million Palestinians in the coastal strip. 

Israel went to war in Gaza right after the Hamas attack and has killed more than 31,000, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between fighters and civilians. Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation by the US and European Union. Israel says it has killed 11,000 fighters. 

Dermer said the US had not categorically rejected any Israeli military operation in Rafah.

“They said without a credible way of moving a mass of people out of Rafah and surging humanitarian assistance to them they don’t see how this can be done effectively,” he said. “And we are saying we agree with you that we have to move the people out, we agree we have to get humanitarian assistance to them, and we believe we can do it.”

Dermer said he was going to Washington to listen to US ideas about what to do. There have been disagreements between the US and Israel over strategy during the more than five months of conflict, but they worked through them in the end, he said.  

In recent weeks, especially as disease and hunger have spread in Gaza without a clear plan for aid distribution, US President Joe Biden and other top US Democrats have openly criticised Netanyahu and Israeli policies. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for Israel to hold new elections, a step that Netanyahu rejected.

Just as Netanyahu faces pressure from his right, Biden faces pressure from his left and each is fighting for political survival.  

Blinken set to visit Israel as US looks to shape Rafah campaign

Blinken announced he would visit Israel later this week, as the Biden administration looks to blunt the impact on civilians if Netanyahu goes ahead with an invasion of Rafah.

“He will discuss the need to ensure the defeat of Hamas, including in Rafah, in a way that protects the civilian population, does not hinder the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and advances Israel’s overall security,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said. 

The top US diplomat is set to discuss ongoing negotiations about securing a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages still held by Hamas. He’ll also press for Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and discuss plans for post-war governance. 

The Israel visit is being added to a trip that already saw Blinken add stops in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Blinken is pressing Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalise diplomatic relations, a strategy now seen as key to encouraging Israeli leaders to move toward a political process that leads to a Palestinian state. 

Gaza tensions: What to watch at the EU summit

European Union leaders were gathering on Thursday in Brussels at the beginning of a two-day summit, with the wars in Ukraine and Gaza front and centre.  

While reiterating their strong condemnation of Hamas, EU leaders were set to harden their stance on Israel over what they will describe as the “catastrophic humanitarian situation” in Gaza. 

They will repeat calls for an immediate ceasefire and to allow the provision of humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip. The bloc will also call for an immediate halt to violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as condemn and sanction extremist settler violence. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

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  • Dov de Jong says:

    Daily Maverick persists in calling the conflict ” Israel – Palestine ” war.
    It is NOT and the DM should call a spade a spade as it always does, except now for reasons best known to itself.
    The war is a war between Israel and the terrorist entity Hamas.
    The DM does not call the conflict in the north of Israel the ” Israel – Lebanon ” conflict but calls it the conflict between Israel and Hizballah the disparity is telling.

    • Mohsin Wadee says:

      So if Hamas are terrorists, are you willing to call Israel genocidal? Thought not.

    • JP K says:

      This is a Bloomberg article…

      But anyway when, Israeli propaganda aside, you have what looks to be like a genocide going on (as per the ICJ), when you have statements like “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible” (Herzog), when the strategy being employed is not likely to destroy Hamas and more likely to cement resistance [“In this kind of a fight, the centre of gravity is the civilian population … and if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] and therefore merely a pretext for war, then clearly there is an argument to be made that the war is not against Hamas, but instead against the people of Palestine.

      • Justin Brown says:

        Couldn’t agree more.

      • Mark Parker says:

        Considering the ferocity and brutality and sexual violence committed on Oct 7th by Hamas, wildly celebrated in Gaza/West Bank, not to mention the instruction provided by UNRWA “teachers” in schools, I would think that the resistance to Jews is ingrained, cemented and pervasive across Gaza/West Bank. You intimate however that this is not the case, but rather the Palestinians are only now hating the Jews since Oct 13th IDF bombing (you know this to be a falsehood but you continue).

        It is also convenient to separate Hamas from Palestinians as if they are divisible. Yet Palestinians are overwhelmingly supportive of Hamas. You will also know that Palestinian hatred for the Jews/Israel pre-dates Oct 7th as they dispute the legitimacy of the State of Israel and hate the presence of Jews in “their” Palestine. You deliberately ignore the hatred of Jews by all Palestinians which is ingrained, cemented, pervasive, brutal and ferocious.

        The reality is that Hamas, with the help of UNRWA, have deliberately and successfully sought to destroy the lives of generations of Palestinians (particularly the children) to choose violence, bloodshed and martyrdom over trying to find a peaceful alternative.

        Israel are certainly not blameless especially considering their settlement expansions in the West Bank, however I see plenty of “peace” rallies in Israel but never in the West Bank/Gaza. How ironic that Hamas terrorists attacked a “For Peace Dance Festival” in Israel.

        • John P says:

          Israel has variously accused anywhere from 3 to 30 UNRWA staffers as being involved in the October 7 attack. They further say that anywhere from 450 to 2,135 UNRWA staffers are members of Hamas. They have provided no verifiable proof for any of these statements.
          There are 12,000 UNWRA staffers in Gaza and it is likely that some are members of Hamas just as many workers in South Africa were members of the ANC during Apartheid. This does not mean you car tar every UNWA staffer with the same brush.

        • John P says:

          Israel has variously accused anywhere from 3 to 30 UNRWA staffers as being involved in the October 7 attack. They further say that anywhere from 450 to 2,135 UNRWA staffers are members of Hamas. They have provided no verifiable proof for any of these statements.
          There are 12,000 UNWRA staffers in Gaza and it is likely that some are members of Hamas just as many workers in South Africa were members of the ANC during Apartheid. This does not mean you car tar every UNWA staffer with the same brush.

  • Troy Marshall says:

    Israel blocked a US shipment of flour (enough to feed a million for a month) for nearly two months. This happened even though Netanyahu promised President Biden that this delivery would be facilitated through the Israeli port of Ashdod.
    Is further proof needed that Israel is waging war against the citizens of Palestine?
    The Palestinians have endured decades of Israeli abuse, their land stolen for illegal settlements.
    I believe we need a conversation about what terrorism really is.

    • Mark Parker says:

      Ok, lets go…What is terrorism according to Troy.

      • Troy Marshall says:

        Thanks JP K, a quality comment.

        I would say under the old apartheid government the SAP and SADF were ‘terrorists”
        I would say those who took up arms against the old apartheid government were “freedom fighters”
        I would call Palestinian’s fighting Israeli oppression “freedom fighters”
        I call the IDF “terrorists” and have been calling them such for decades
        Freedom fighters and army uniformed terrorists will both be guilty of atrocities

        To keep a population subjugated and fearful using force is terrorism. If a population lives in constant fear dreading the sight of uniformed soldiers then they have been terrorised.
        Unfortunately “freedom fighters” can’t pick and choose who they get their weapons from. The government of Iran are a nasty lot (been very polite here) but they are arming Palestinian fighters and these fighters are smeared because of this association.
        I’d wager most Palestinians would settle for a “two state” solution, even though backers like Iran want total Israeli destruction.

        How would Mark Parker define terrorism

        • Mark Parker says:

          Well Troy, between JPK and you, it is clear how you view the world. Anyone who has even a modicum of honesty would say that Hamas’ actions on Oct 7th was pure unadulterated terrorism…yet you deny it. Just read JPK’s Google definition of terrorism and simply apply it to Hamas to see if the shoe fits. Worse, you even aportion blame to Iran for being the “nasties” which has “tainted” your beloved freedom fighters.

          And do yourself a favour,as well as JPK and read the 1988 Hamas Charter as well as their clarification document of 2018, and tell me they want a 2-state solution. Polls also suggest Hamas’ overwhelming Palestinian support in the West Bank too, so I would keep your wager Rands in your pocket.
          If you wish to go back into SA history. The SADF, SAP, ANC and PAC were not terrorists even though the ANC were labelled terrorists, everyone knew this to be false and here is how you could tell…African governments and multiple western governments around the world supported the ANC and provided them direct funding, assistance and safe haven. Other than Qatar and Iran, who provides the same to Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis? Which countries allows Hamas freedom fighters access to training camps in their countries? Egypt? Jordan? Syria? Lebanon? Who allows Palestinian refugees into their countries? Now tell me again, for and your sidekick JPK, who are the freedom fighters and terrorists? You are Islamist apologists, lightweights, TikTok riffraff and ignorant.

          • John P says:

            Ouch Mark, you strike out like a toddler when others do not agree with your view.

        • Malcolm McManus says:

          In my view, freedom fighters actually fight, hence the term “fighters”. So in the case of Hamas, they need to come out and fight. Stop hiding behind civilians. If the civilians are innocent, stop allowing hamas to shelter within their ranks.
          As for the ANC. They were never freedom fighters. They planted bombs and used civilians as targets and ran away. I don’t know of any war they fought in.

    • JP K says:

      Indeed. I forgot to mention that.

      On terrorism, I agree. According to the OHCHR “As a minimum,Terrorism involves the intimidation or coercion of populations or governments through the threat or perpetration of violence, causing death, serious injury or the taking of hostages”

      If it is the case that the reason for the control of goods including food into Gaza is to pressure Hamas (a terrorist organisation as media organisations constantly remind us) into releasing hostages (or whatever pretext for the war happens to be most expedient) then, by definition, Israel is conducting terrorism.

      Defining terrorism is, apparently, tricky because of the rather obvious problem that it is difficult to define in a way that doesn’t make states like Israel guilty themself guilty of terrorism. As South Africans, we should be very familiar with this given that the ANC was labelled a terrorist organisation (not the South African state) and Nelson Mandella was on the terrorist list.

      • Denise Smit says:

        All forget the neclacing of people in our townships . Memories are short. Now terrorists are freedom fighters

        • Troy Marshall says:

          The security apparatus of the apartheid government engaged in the extra judicial killing of anti-apartheid activists? That’s state sanctioned murder. At the very least you must of heard of the Bureau for State Security (boss) or Vlakplaas?
          South Africa had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Did you follow any of it?

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    For anyone irrespective of supporting Jews or Palestinians it very clear that Israel and it’s allies have played the world knowing the intention of Israel to wipe the Palestinians, an ongoing operation since 1967.
    A lot of people don’t understand and we’re fooled by the October 7 attack, forgiving those who were not paying attention to the ongoing process.
    The plan was to arm Israel and then allow them to violently occupy and provoke the Palestinians to a point of retaliation, then attack blantantly and kill as many then when the world pays attention negotiate a cease fire.
    It is called the creative stage of any plan and has no time span.
    America the main funder and weapons supplier received the Israel war plan against HAMAS not Palestine, under international law America had an obligation to ensure that it’s currency and weapons are not involved in planned crimes against humanity.
    America and allies were aware that on the war plan there were no measures to protect civillians because the war cabinet deemed them to be human animals, a statement issued publicly.
    When the death toll of Palestinians 70% woman and children became evident and a ceasefire was proposed in the security council America vetoed it.
    Israel blocked all essentials to Palestinians comitting war crimes, it still didn’t matter to it’s allies they even resisted approach to the international court.
    USA has come with a biased temporal cease fire which does not hold Israel to account the Arab league vetoed it.

    • Mark Parker says:

      You shouldn’t drink and type…

      • Troy Marshall says:

        People in the West, with their numbers swelling, refusing to swallow an Israeli controlled narrative?
        Certain Israeli supporters getting angry, resorting to juvenile insults? Seriously! Raise, the bar.

        • Mark Parker says:

          Considering the bar that you, Kenneth and JP K have set it would seem appropriate to sometimes hover around the rocks and stones because you pointedly refuse to acknowledge and respond to facts other than those that support your flaccid and illogical statements. You aportion zero blame to Palestinian behaviour throughout their 100 year history. You prefer a conspiracy theory that concocts a Western and Jewish controlled cabal that operates in a vacuum. Your lot can never respond to logical and valid arguments, other than to babble out further inane and ludicrous twaddle that you find in UN Rapporteur Reports, other UN orgs, Al Jazeera, RTE or Finkelstein. Your lot have lazily and purposefully made comparisons between Israel and SA apartheid and in the past Nazism, to wound and in doing so have shown your own attitude towards the Jewish race. You somehow believe that by invoking comparisons between the apartheid ANC and Palestinian “liberation” / terrorists groups you will garner support. I seriously doubt you were even around during Apartheid. Considering you branded the SADF terrorists, with me and countless other white males serving 2 years, I must have by extension also been a terrorist…interesting. At the very least try and see both sides of a situation and find fault, understanding and reason why there is conflict. I can find numerous faults against the behaviour and actions of the Israeli state because I simply don’t have a deep rooted dislike of Palestinians.

          • Troy Marshall says:

            Amnesty International views Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and it’s behaviour in occupied territories as the crime against humanity of apartheid. Human Rights Watch concurs. Off course Israel and those who defend it have played the anti-Semitism card.
            So far Israel has stolen 16% of the land in the occupied West Bank, all for resettlement. This is in defiance of International Law. YOU bought up the spectre of Nazism. Would you call this illegal expansion “living room”?
            As per Haaretz (an Israeli Newspaper), there are two legal systems, and two justice systems. For Palestinians in the occupied territory, there is only military justice and this newspaper acknowledges that these Palestinians are living under dictatorship conditions.
            B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation issued a report in 2021 concluding “the bar for labelling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met”.
            If the citizens of Ukraine have a right to resist an occupation, then surely the Palestinians should too.
            If Israel refuses to countenance a two state solution, yet refuses Palestinians in these territories the same rights as Israeli’s, then you have to call it what it is – apartheid.
            BTW : Grahamstown 6th SAI 1986
            Mister Parker, if you want to debate – debate, leave the assumptions and slurs out of it.

          • Troy Marshall says:

            Amnesty International views Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and it’s behaviour in occupied territories as the crime against humanity of apartheid. Human Rights Watch concurs. Off course Israel and those who defend it have played the anti-Semitism card.
            So far Israel has stolen 16% of the land in the occupied West Bank, all for resettlement. This is in defiance of International Law. YOU bought up the spectre of Nazism. Would you call this illegal expansion “living room”?
            As per Haaretz (an Israeli Newspaper), there are two legal systems, and two justice systems. For Palestinians in the occupied territory, there is only military justice and this newspaper acknowledges that these Palestinians are living under dictatorship conditions.
            B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation issued a report in 2021 concluding “the bar for labelling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met”.
            If the citizens of Ukraine have a right to resist an occupation, then surely the Palestinians should too.
            If Israel refuses to countenance a two state solution, yet refuses Palestinians in these territories the same rights as Israeli’s, then you have to call it what it is – apartheid.
            BTW : Grahamstown 6th SAI 1986
            Mister Parker, if you want to debate – debate, leave the assumptions and slurs out of it.

          • John P says:

            When you served your 2 years did you believe you were fighting for the good guys? Where you actually fighting on the ground or an officer serving in a comfy base camp?
            I did my time including 4 border tours and while defending the borders against insurgents was ok with it. When it came to going into Soweto to fight against the civilian population of my country I refused. At that point if I had not I would have classed myself as a terrorist.

      • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

        Mark we have a heatwave this side and we do drink a lot of water, it is usual for people with a deficit of facts to resort to insults as points to a discussion.
        The treatment to your condition is called shut up.

  • peter selwaski says:

    Israel must destroy Hamas. If not, Hamas will repeat the attack of October 7. Blinken is just another quota hire in Biden’s administration.

    • John P says:

      If Israel destroy Hamas a new movement will come into being for the same reasons and to fight the same fight. Only a negotiated settlement can lead to peace.

  • Troy Marshall says:

    So China and Russia have blocked a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Basically they say the resolution doesn’t go far enough? Nonsense!
    I wonder how Naledi Pandor (South Africa’s Minister of International Relations) feels about our BRICS partners now? Seems our BRICS partners have their own agenda’s. Civilian death tolls be damned.

    • John P says:

      They blocked it because it was an American resolution, of course they don’t give a damn about civilians. South Africa has yet to learn that Russia only cares about Russia and China about China. They sure don’t care about us.

  • virginia crawford says:

    A war can only be between states, unless it’s the “war on drugs” and we know how that went. International law protects civilians in occupied territories, but Israel has flouted laws for decades. I hope the world does turn against Israel, but more importantly, stop selling them arms. Please refer to Kenneth Stern, a celebrated Jewish scholar and lead drafter of the IHRA (Holocaust remembrance)’s definition of anti- Semitism. He agrees now that conflating criticism of the Zionist project and anti-Semitism is a threat to free speech and academic freedom.

  • Troy Marshall says:

    In reply to John P at 12:37
    When serving I never thought on it, I thought I was doing right. I’ve always enjoyed meeting others and for the most part I enjoyed the company of my comrades. I believe most people are good people and most of us where.
    Our government was not “good people”.
    We never enjoyed the access to information that this generation enjoys.
    After the army I went into the printing trade, would hang out at a bar across the road from Independent Newspapers (think they were called something else then). Met a lot of bohemian people. This was in Durban. I got “schooled” during these times.

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