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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel-Hamas war: US warns against hasty Rafah operation

Published February 8, 2024last updated February 8, 2024

Prime Minister Netanyahu said he had ordered the military to prepare for operations in the city where 1 million are sheltering. The US warned such an operation would require "serious planning." DW has the latest.

Men inside a destroyed building
Palestinians examine damage after an Israeli strike in Rafah on February 8Image: Fatima Shbair/AP Photo/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • US raises concerns over Israeli military's planned operation in Gaza's border town Rafah, where it says 1 million Palestinians live
  • A Hamas delegation is set to arrive in Cairo for a fresh round of negotiations after Israel rejected its counterproposal for cease-fire
  • US top diplomat Antony Blinken continued meeting with top officials before wrapping up his visit to Israel
Skip next section Netanyahu not doing enough to return hostages, family member tells DW
February 8, 2024

Netanyahu not doing enough to return hostages, family member tells DW

A sign reading 'bring them home now' at a protest in Tel Aviv on February 3
Israelis have held regular protests calling for the return of hostages held by Hamas in GazaImage: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Efrat Machikawa's uncle was kidnapped in southern Israel during the October 7 Hamas terror attacks.

She told DW that hostage relatives have become like "one connected family," but that they have no news or information about the condition of their loved ones being held by Hamas in Gaza. 

"We know there isn't any more time, we have to bring them back now," she said. 

"Our Prime Minister [Netanyahu] said it's matter of months, but they're fading away and we want them back alive," she said.

"Whatever he says or whatever he did until today wasn't enough," she said.

"We expect our prime minister not to play politics … but to make sure that he brings everybody back" she said. 

Netanyahu on Wednesday turned down a Hamas counteroffer for a cease-fire that is reported to have included a hostage return, but on the condition that Israel withdraw from Gaza.

"There is a big difference between what you might see of our government, and who we feel we are as people," Machikawa said. 

"We haven't started this. We are captives within this terrible problem. But we expect our prime minister to bring those who are still alive back home."

Israel rejects Hamas cease-fire proposals

Skip next section US warns a poorly planned assault on Rafah would be a 'disaster'
February 8, 2024

US warns a poorly planned assault on Rafah would be a 'disaster'

US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters Thursday that the US has not seen any evidence that Israel has adequately prepared for an assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah

"To conduct such an operation right now with no planning and little thought in an area" where 1 million people are sheltering "would be a disaster," he said. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were preparing to operate in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza on the border with Egypt.

Many of those sheltering in Rafah fled other areas of the Gaza Strip as Israel continues its campaign to remove the Hamas militant group from power.

"We would not support the undertaking of something like this without serious and credible planning, as well as without considering the impacts on humanitarian assistance and the safe departure of foreign nationals," Patel said. 

Gaza talks continue amid fears of Israeli push into Rafah

Skip next section German frigate moves to Red Sea to join planned EU mission
February 8, 2024

German frigate moves to Red Sea to join planned EU mission

A German navy frigate set sail on Thursday toward the Red Sea to join a European Union mission to protect ships from Houthi attacks. 

The Yemen-based, Iran-backed rebels have repeatedly launched attacks against merchant ships sailing in the region, saying that their action was in support of the Palestinians amid Israel's war on Hamas. 

"Free sea trade routes are the basis of our industry and of our capability to defend ourselves," the chief of the German navy, Vice Admiral Jan Christian Kaack, told reporters in Berlin.

Germany sends frigate to help secure Red Sea

Skip next section Hospital says 13 killed in Israeli strike on Rafah
February 8, 2024

Hospital says 13 killed in Israeli strike on Rafah

The Kuwait hospital in Rafah said that it received the bodies of 13 people who died in overnight Israeli strikes on the southern Gazan city.

According to the hospital, the casualties included two women and five children. 

The Reuters news agency reported, citing residents, that Israeli planes bombed areas in Rafah in the morning.

The Associated Press (AP) news agency also reported that residents were using their phones as flashlights at the scene of one of the strikes, where they dug through the rubble with their bare hands. 

Palestinians in Rafah, where there are more that 1 million people, are bracing for an Israeli ground invasion after Prime Minister Netanyahu said he ordered troops to "prepare" for it. 

Skip next section Blinken holds talks with members of Israel's War Cabinet
February 8, 2024

Blinken holds talks with members of Israel's War Cabinet

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Benny Gantz and Gabi Eisenkot, two former defense chiefs who joined the wartime cabinet after the October 7 terror attacks by Hamas

At the beginning of the meeting, Blinken said the discussions would center around "the hostages and the strong desire that we both have to see them returned to their families, the work that's being done to that end."

Gantz echoed Blinken's remarks, saying: "The most urgent issue is of course to find ways to bring back the hostages."      

"That being done, many things can be achieved," Gantz added.

Around 136 hostages have not been freed from Hamas. The Israeli military has said it estimates that just over 100 are still alive.

Blinken is wrapping up on Thursday a four-nation Middle East trip, which is his fifth to the region since the war started. 

Mother of Gaza hostage Naama Levy tells her story

Skip next section Hamas engaging in fresh talks after Israel rejected its offer
February 8, 2024

Hamas engaging in fresh talks after Israel rejected its offer

A new round of negotiations between Hamas and mediators Egypt and Qatar is set to open on Thursday in Cairo, the Islamist militant group said. 

An Egyptian official was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that the talks were aimed at achieving "calm in Gaza" and that Cairo was urging "both parties to show the necessary flexibility" to reach a deal.

The fresh negotiations come a day after Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected an offer by Hamas that sought a cease-fire and ultimately an end to the war. Israel rejected Hamas' proposal on the grounds that it would allow the group to stay in power in Gaza and rebuild its military capabilities. 

Hamas' offer was in response to a proposal by US-backed Egypt and Qatar. 

Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, Israel and several Arab countries. 

The Day with Brent Goff: Restrained & Muted

Skip next section Netanyahu: Israeli army preparing to enter Rafah
February 8, 2024

Netanyahu: Israeli army preparing to enter Rafah

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed late Wednesday that the Israeli military was preparing to press in on Rafah, the city in southern Gaza on the Egyptian border in which hundreds of thousands of Gazans have sought refuge.

Netanyahu said he had ordered troops to "prepare to operate" in the city and that "total victory" over Hamas was just months away.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had warned that military push into Rafah "would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare."

Israel-Hamas war: Living in tents on the Gaza-Egypt border

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths also warned that further fighting in Rafah "risks claiming more lives and exacerbating humanitarian needs."

The UN estimates that more than 1 million people are now living in the city. 

Skip next section October 7 cannot be 'license to dehumanize others,' Blinken says
February 8, 2024

October 7 cannot be 'license to dehumanize others,' Blinken says

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed for more aid deliveries for the besieged Gaza Strip during a press conference in Tel Aviv late Wednesday.

"Israelis were dehumanized in the most horrific way on October 7. The hostages have been dehumanized every day since. But that cannot be a license to dehumanize others," he said. 

"The overwhelming majority of people in Gaza had nothing to do with the attacks of October 7. And the families in Gaza, whose survival depends on deliveries of aid from Israel, are just like our families," he added. 

The top US diplomat said the opening of the Israeli border crossing with Gaza, Kerem Shalom, resulted in "more assistance than ever" going into Gaza, but called on Israel to ensure that aid is not blocked "for any reason, by anyone." 

Blinken arrived in Israel for talks with senior officials on Wednesday in a push for a hostage deal and a truce in Gaza, as part of his first trip to the Middle East since the war started

fb/kb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)