GAZA WARIsrael’s Invasion of Rafah Will Not Eliminate Hamas or End the War. So, What Is Benjamin Netanyahu’s Plan?

By Ian Parmeter

Published 16 May 2024

The longer the war has dragged on, the more it has highlighted that Israel, which has been under Netanyahu’s almost continuous rule since 2009, has no long-term strategy for living side-by-side with its Palestinian neighbors. Even if a ceasefire could be agreed to, Netanyahu’s government hasn’t articulated a plan for the “day after”. Already, this lack of a plan is creating a dangerous power vacuum in northern Gaza that has been filled by gangs, clans and criminals.

The Gaza war has now entered its eighth month and a resolution to the conflict still seems far off.

Israel claims to have killed 13,000 Hamas militants so far. If that figure is correct, one can assume the number of wounded or incapacitated militants is at least twice or maybe three times that number.

Prior to the war breaking out, Israel estimated there were around 30,000 Hamas fighters in Gaza. If this total can also be taken at face value, then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be correct in arguing the removal of the last battalions in the southern city of Rafah would likely thwart the group’s ability to be a threat to Israel.

However, there are flaws in this reasoning. Israel has not explained how it calculates the number of militants the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has killed. Given the chaotic conditions in Gaza, it’s not difficult to believe the 13,000 figure is merely an estimate based on the approximate number of military-aged men (18-40 years) among the 35,000 Palestinians killed in total.

In addition, if the remaining militants are hiding in tunnels beneath Rafah, as Netanyahu claims, what is to stop them from using the tunnel network to move north out of harm’s way? There is some evidence this is already occurring. The IDF and Israeli media say Hamas has regrouped in areas in central and northern Gaza that Israel claims to have “cleared” months ago.

More importantly, the IDF has been unable to locate and eliminate the two primary Hamas leaders – political leader Yahya Sinwar, who masterminded the October 7 attacks, and military leader Mohammed Deif. While these two remain at large, Israel cannot claim victory.

On top of that, Israel has not succeeded in rescuing the remaining hostages held by Hamas. Only three of the approximately 240 hostages seized by Hamas on October 7 have been freed by military action. Just over 100 other hostages have been released through negotiations and unilateral action by Hamas.

And international anger over Israel’s conduct of the war is growing exponentially, as demonstrated by the growing university sit-ins around the world and even the loud booing directed at Israel’s entrant in the Eurovision song contest.