Israeli Troops Target Rafah

Defence Minister of Israel Yoav Gallant said the withdrawal from Khan Yunis was because “Hamas ceased to exist as a military framework” in the city….reports Asian Lite News

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) is bracing up for the Rafah operation after it wrapped up the Khan Yunis operations in southern Gaza and the 98th division of the IDF withdrew from the area.

Israel Defence Ministry sources said that the withdrawal was done for ground invasion into the Rafah region.

Defence Minister of Israel Yoav Gallant said the withdrawal was because “Hamas ceased to exist as a military framework” in Khan Younis, just north of Rafah, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering. He also said the pullout was “to prepare for future missions, including … in Rafah.”

After troops left areas in and around the largely destroyed city of Khan Yunis, a stream of displaced Palestinians walked there, hoping to return to their homes from temporary shelters in Rafah, a little further south, Arab News reported.

Gallant, widely considered a hawk, met the senior officers of the 98th division of the IDF on Sunday and discussed the Rafah operations.

The allies of Israel, including the US and other Western powers had earlier told Israel not to enter into a ground invasion in the Rafah region as that would lead to major casualties among civilians.

Rafah region of Gaza is densely populated and has an estimated 1.3 million people. The Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi had expressed his concern over a possible Rafah operation with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken during the latter‘s visit to Egypt in March.

Meanwhile, Sisi had a meeting with Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns along with Director of the General Intelligence Service, Major General Abbas Kamel.

Spokesman for the Presidency, Counselor Dr. Ahmed Fahmy, said the meeting focused on the joint Egyptian-Qatari-American efforts to reach a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. It also reviewed the latest developments on the ground, underlining the crucial need for intensified efforts to restore calm and halt the military escalation.

Sisi underscored the dire humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, which has led to widespread famine in the sector. He stressed the desperate and imperative need for concerted international efforts, without any delay, to exert pressure for the immediate and unfettered flow of much-needed humanitarian aid and relief to all areas of the sector in adequate quantities.

During the meeting, there was an alignment in views with regard to the vital importance of protecting civilians and the gravity of the military escalation in the Palestinian city of Rafah, while categorically rejecting the displacement of the Palestinians from the lands.

The Egyptian President emphasised the need to work, in earnest, toward reaching a just settlement to the Palestinian cause, based on the two-state solution. Sisi warned against expanding the cycle of the conflict in a way that jeopardizes regional security and stability.

Australia to examine Israeli airstrike probe

 A former head of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been appointed as the country’s special advisor on Israel’s response to strikes that killed aid workers in Gaza.

Penny Wong, Australian minister for foreign affairs, on Monday announced that retired Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Mark Binskin will oversee official investigations into the strikes that killed seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) staff in Gaza, Xinhua news agency reported.

Australian citizen Zomi Frankcom was among the WCK humanitarian workers who were killed when the convoy they were travelling in was hit by an Israel Defense Force (IDF) airstrike in central Gaza on April 1 local time.

Wong said on Monday that Binskin was eminently qualified to advise the government on the sufficiency and appropriateness of the steps taken by Israel and on any further actions that could be taken to hold those responsible to account.

ACM Binskin will engage with Israel and the Israel Defense Forces on the response to the attack which killed Zomi and her colleagues. Australia has made clear to the Israeli government our expectation and trust that this engagement will be facilitated,” she said in a statement.

Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had called for a paradigm shift in Israel’s military strategy in Gaza and in aid delivery to save lives.

Following last week’s appalling killing of seven humanitarian workers from World Central Kitchen, the Israeli government had acknowledged mistakes and announced some disciplinary measures, Guterres said on Friday. “But the essential problem is not who made the mistakes, it is the military strategy and procedures in place that allow for those mistakes to multiply time and time again.”

Fixing those failures requires independent investigations and meaningful and measurable change on the ground, he said at a press encounter as the Gaza conflict is about to become six months old.

In its speed, scale and inhumane ferocity, the war in Gaza is the deadliest of conflicts — for civilians, for aid workers, for journalists, for health workers, and for UN staff. Some 196 humanitarian aid workers, including more than 175 UN staff members, have been killed, Guterres was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

An information war has added to the trauma, obscuring facts and shifting blame. Denying international journalists entry into Gaza is allowing disinformation and false narratives to flourish, he said.

Guterres demanded an investigation into those killings, noting that investigation can only work with the cooperation of the Israeli authorities.

“One hundred and ninety-six humanitarian workers have been killed, and we want to know why each one of them was killed,” he said.

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