Rafah became the target of a desperate Israeli ground invasion. Photo/Reuters
GAZA – Israel plans to carry out a massive land invasion of Rafah. It sparked resistance from Hamas and was opposed by Arab countries.
Rafah straddles the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. On the Palestinian side, it is the name of the southernmost governorate of Gaza and its capital, as well as the name of the crossing to the Sinai in Egypt. On the Egyptian side, it is a city in the North Sinai province.
Palestine's Rafah covers an area of 64 square km and, as Israel attacked Gaza over the past four months, more and more people were herded there by Israeli forces who kept promising security “further south” – but it never materialized.
Some 1.4 million Palestinians have now been pushed into Rafah due to relentless Israeli bombardment that has killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians.
People were in dense groups in confined spaces that were not filled with rubble or bombed by Israel. Conditions were very poor, with severe deficiencies.
Why is Israel Desperate to Destroy Rafah?
1. Directly borders Egypt
According to NPR, Gaza was part of historic Palestine before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, when more than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in what Palestinians call al-Nakba, or “the Catastrophe.”
Egypt captured Gaza during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, and as a result there is no border at Rafah.
Egypt's Sinai Peninsula – where Rafah is located – was invaded by Israel in the Six Day War in 1967. The Sinai was later returned to Egypt after the Camp David Agreement and the 1979 peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. The last Israeli army withdrew from the peninsula in 1982.
Israel opened the Rafah crossing after the 1979 peace agreement, and the movement of people from Gaza to Egypt remained under Israeli control from 1982 to 2005. Since November 2005, the Rafah crossing has been under the control of Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, and the European Union—for the first time . The Palestinians have gained partial control of one of their international borders.
2. Has a tunnel that penetrates Egypt