Netanyahu’s Last Battle Promises No Victory, Just Slaughter in Rafah

The Palestinian city of Rafah is not only older than Israel, it is also as old as civilisation itself. Rafah has existed for thousands of years. The Canaanites referred to it as Rafia, and Rafia has been almost always there, guarding the southern frontiers of Palestine, ancient and modern.

As the gateway between two continents and two worlds, Rafah has been at the forefront of many wars and foreign invasions, from ancient Egyptians to the Romans, to Napoleon and his eventually vanquished army. Now, it is Benjamin Netanyahu’s turn.

The Israeli prime minister has made Rafah the jewel in his crown of shame, the battle that will determine the fate of his genocidal war in Gaza; in fact, the very future of his country. “Those who want to prevent us from operating in Rafah are essentially telling us: ‘Lose the war’,” he said at a press conference on 17 February.

There are now anywhere between 1.3 to 1.5 million Palestinians in Rafah, an area that had a population of 200,000 people before the war started. Even then, it was considered to be crowded. We can only imagine what the situation is right now, with hundreds of thousands of people scattered in muddy refugee camps, subsisting in makeshift tents that are unable to withstand the elements of a harsh winter. The Mayor of Rafah says that only 10 per cent of the needed food and water is reaching the people in the camps, where they suffer from extreme hunger, if not outright starvation.

They have lost loved ones and homes, and have no access to any medical care. They are trapped between high walls, the sea and a murderous army.

An Israeli invasion of Rafah will not alter the battlefield in favour of the occupation army, but it will be horrific for the displaced Palestinians. The slaughter will go beyond anything and everything we have seen so far anywhere in Gaza.

Where will up to 1.5 million people go when Israel’s tanks arrive? The closest so-called safe area is Al-Mawasi, which is already overcrowded. The displaced refugees there are also starving due to Israel’s blocking of aid and constant bombing of humanitarian convoys.

Then there is northern Gaza, which is mostly in ruins. It has no food to the extent that, in some areas, even animal feed, which is now being consumed by human beings, is no longer accessible.

If the international community does not finally develop the will to stop Israel, this horrific crime will prove to be worse by far than all the crimes that have already been committed by the occupation forces. It is expected that more than 100,000 Palestinians will be killed or wounded in Rafah alone.

However, an invasion of Rafah promises neither military nor strategic victory for Israel, just slaughter. Netanyahu simply wants to satisfy the bloodlust across the occupation state. Even though their armed forces have killed 30,000 Palestinians so far, and wounded 70,000, Israelis still want more revenge. “I am personally proud of the ruins of Gaza,” said Israel’s Minister of Social Equality May Golan during a Knesset session on 21 February.

At the start of the war, Israel claimed that Hamas was concentrated mostly in the north of Gaza. The north was duly destroyed, but the Resistance carried on unabated. Then Israel claimed that the Resistance headquarters was under Shifa Hospital, which was bombed, raided and destroyed. Then it claimed that Bureij, Maghazi and central Gaza were the main prizes of the war. Then, Khan Younis was declared the “capital of Hamas”. And so it has gone on and on…

The Resistance has not been defeated, and the alleged “Hamas capital” has shifted conveniently from one city to another, even from one neighbourhood to another.

Now, the same ridiculous claims and unsubstantiated allegations are being made about Rafah, where most of Gaza’s population was ordered to go by Israel, in total despair, if they wanted to survive the onslaught.

Israel had hoped that the Palestinians would rush to leave Gaza in their hundreds of thousands and go to the Sinai Desert. They didn’t. Then Israeli leaders, like far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, spoke of “voluntary migration” as the “right humanitarian solution”. Still, the Palestinians stayed put. Now, the Israelis have agreed on the invasion of Rafah; it’s just a matter of time, in a last-ditch effort to orchestrate another Palestinian Nakba.

But another Nakba will not happen. Palestinians will not allow it to happen.

Ultimately, Netanyahu’s and Israel’s political madness must come to an end. Moreover, the world cannot persist in its cowardly inaction. The lives of millions of Palestinians are dependent on our collective push to stop this genocide immediately.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out. His other books include My Father was a Freedom Fighter and The Last Earth. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is

Author: Ramzy Baroud

Ramzy Baroud is editor of the Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).