Discuss Confirmed! Israel Opens Rafah to Journalists Amid Intensifying Gaza Assault

Discuss Confirmed! Israel Opens Rafah to Journalists Amid Intensifying Gaza Assault

South of the Gaza Strip, in Rafah — After Israel’s military ground assault on Rafah in southern Gaza began in early May, a CBS News team was one of the first groups of foreign journalists permitted to visit the city.

Rafah had been devastated. Israeli allies and the United States expressed grave concern for the safety of civilians who had sought sanctuary in the city during the seven months of fighting that preceded the operation, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went ahead and ordered it nonetheless.

About one million Palestinians had escaped Rafah by the end of May, with many having been displaced at least once before, according to the United Nations, which was at least two weeks into Israel’s ground operations in the city.

Under the direction of producer Marwan al-Ghoul, CBS News journalists stationed in Gaza have chronicled the conflict from its inception, providing the global community with firsthand accounts of the catastrophic toll it has taken on innocent people. However, international television news teams got their first view at the Rafah operation and its aftermath during Wednesday’s visit.

A convoy of open-top Israeli Defense Forces Humvees was used to transport CBS News into southern Gaza.

Subterranean “terror ecosystem” discovered, according to the IDF

A subterranean network of tunnels that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said the militants had built beneath Rafah—a “terror ecosystem”—was among the many accomplishments the IDF hoped to showcase to the media. According to military sources, a portion of the tunnel network linked the Gaza Strip, home to Hamas militants, to Egypt, located to the south of the Palestinian enclave.

Discuss Confirmed! Israel Opens Rafah to Journalists Amid Intensifying Gaza Assault

The U.S., Israel, and the EU have all labeled Hamas as a terrorist organization for years, and Israel has long pointed to that channel as a crucial survival line for the group.

Hundreds of residences in the city were found boobytrapped by the militants, according to the IDF, and more than 900 militants were slain in Rafah during their operations.


Gaza Aid Crisis: US Halts Shipments for Third Time in a Month

The city was believed to be the final stronghold of Hamas, the terrorist group that governed Gaza for over 20 years before to its historic terror attack on Israel on October 7th, which triggered the continuing conflict. Militants killed 1,200 people and captured 240 more in that raid; 80 of them are reported to be alive and detained in Gaza.

The Health Ministry of Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, has reported that about 38,000 Palestinians, mainly children and women, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory bombardment. The majority of the Palestinian territory’s infrastructure has also been leveled by the conflict, which has displaced an estimated 2.3 million people.

Almost no one is still living in Rafah, which CBS News observed a month and a half ago to be teeming with Palestinians who had been displaced internally.

An unfathomable level of devastation

How devastating the destruction in Rafah was defies description. The footage shot by CBS News’ camera says it all. It is now a barren wasteland.

The only persons visible in Rafah were Israeli Defense personnel personnel, with the exception of a row of empty relief trucks and their drivers. Feeling sorry for themselves, a few stray cats and a malnourished dog limped among the debris.

During their visit, CBS News reporters heard heavy small-arms fire, which they attribute mostly to Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) forces that are currently active in the city.

Compared to the destruction of Mosul and Raqqa, two Syrian cities ravaged in the battle against ISIS in 2017, the destruction of Rafah’s infrastructure was considerably worse.

Reiterating Israel’s Position on the “Destruction of Hamas”

In the rubble of Rafah, amid the sound of gunshots, Chief IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari met with the press. According to him, the military’s involvement in the city was just beginning.

Israeli forces began their incursion into Gaza a few short hours following Hamas’ assault on October 7. Shortly thereafter, Netanyahu made his intentions clear on television, pledging to dismantle Hamas and threatening that each member of the organization was “a dead man.”

Yahya Sinwar, the top commander of Hamas in the enclave, is among several Hamas commanders who are still on the run following over nine months of combat and the destruction of large portions of Gaza.

Some Israelis are among the many who hold the view that it could take years—if not forever—to eliminate Hamas and its capacity to rule and conduct its own military operations.

Hagari recently stated on Israeli television that, “whoever thinks we can eliminate Hamas is wrong,” and that those who were trying to convince the Israeli people that this was a feasible goal were, “simply throwing sand in the eyes of the public.”

Growing tensions between Netanyahu’s own military and the United States

According to anonymous Israeli commanders quoted by The New York Times on Tuesday, they desire a truce, as there appears to be a rift between Netanyahu and the Israeli military about the goals of the operation and future plans in Gaza.

According to the publication, Israeli generals have expressed concerns about their ammunition supply and the possibility of being overstretched if the war were to grow into a joint confrontation with Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas located in Lebanon across Israel’s northern border. According to the Times, the generals think a truce is the best method to return the remaining Israeli prisoners, and they think the government should seek a truce whether or not its declared goals are achieved.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu retaliated against the allegations, stating that he was unaware of the identity of the anonymous sources involved, but he wanted to make it very clear: This would not occur. The Israeli side will not rest until it has eliminated Hamas and freed all of its captives; only then will the war come to a close.

In recent weeks, there have been several stories of Palestinian people and Hamas combatants escaping the rubble of Rafah. The city itself has been leveled in Rafah, as it has done in every other significant Gazan population center prior to October 7.

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