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Invading Rafah Seems Inevitable, Israel Insists


After weeks of delays, negotiations and distractions, Israel appeared to hint this week that its assault of Rafah was all but inevitable.

Israeli warplanes bombed Rafah this week, and an Israeli official said that if an invasion began, civilians would be relocated to a safe zone on the Mediterranean coast.

Israel insists that invading Rafah, a southern city where more than a million Gazans are sheltering, is necessary to eliminate the militants hiding in a network of tunnels there and to ensure the release of hostages. The U.S. has pushed back against Israel conducting a major military operation there without a detailed plan to protect civilians.

At the moment, Hamas is bottled up in southern Gaza, heavy fighting has mostly subsided, a cease-fire remains possible and delaying helps placate American officials who are against the invasion. Some analysts have even suggested that Israel may never invade Rafah and that the threat is merely leverage against Hamas during negotiations.

But most officials and analysts said that an assault on the city was not a matter of if, but of when.

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