Israel-Hamas War, day 168: for Benjamin Netanyahu, it is not possible “to defeat Hamas without entering Rafah”

The war between Israel and Hamas has left 32,070 dead in the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians, according to a report released Friday March 22 by the Palestinian Islamist movement's health ministry

Israel-Hamas War, day 168: for Benjamin Netanyahu, it is not possible “to defeat Hamas without entering Rafah”

The war between Israel and Hamas has left 32,070 dead in the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians, according to a report released Friday March 22 by the Palestinian Islamist movement's health ministry. On the Israeli side, at least 1,160 people died – most of them also civilians – during the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, according to a count from Agence France-Presse (AFP), established from official Israeli sources. Additionally, according to the Israeli army, 594 soldiers were killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip.

During an interview lasting approximately forty minutes in Tel Aviv, the head of the Israeli government informed Antony Blinken, American Secretary of State on a diplomatic tour of the Middle East, that he intended to carry out an offensive Rafah, “the last bastion of Hamas” according to Israel, even if the United States were not to support it.

On the American side, “Israel’s objective of defeating Hamas and guaranteeing long-term security” is shared, Mr. Blinken told the press before leaving. But “a major ground military operation in Rafah is not the way to achieve this. This risks killing more civilians... It risks further isolating Israel around the world and jeopardizing its long-term security. »

Meanwhile, talks on a truce continued in Doha, where Israeli intelligence chief David Barnea was scheduled to meet with CIA Director William Burns, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Ben Abderrahmane Al Thani, and the head of Egyptian intelligence, Abbas Kamel. “The gap is narrowing” in these negotiations for a truce associated with a release of hostages, Mr. Blinken had affirmed the day before, speaking of an agreement “still possible”.

Washington, which had blocked several truce resolutions at the United Nations (UN) Security Council, failed on Friday to adopt a text insisting on the "need for an immediate and lasting ceasefire" in link with the release of hostages held in the Palestinian territory, at the UN.

The blockade was welcomed by Hamas. “We express our satisfaction with the position of Russia, China and Algeria who rejected the biased American resolution,” communicated the Islamist movement, denouncing in particular the “misleading formulation” of this text. The Russian ambassador to the UN described the text as “hypocritical”, considering that it did not directly call for silencing the guns. Emmanuel Macron, for his part, expressed his desire to find “an agreement” at the UN Security Council, emphasizing the “need” for an “immediate” ceasefire in Gaza.

A figure of the far right and the West Bank settlement movement, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced “the declaration of approximately 8,000 dunums [800 hectares] as state lands [of the State of Israel ] in the Jordan Valley” in the occupied West Bank, according to a statement.

This decision is described as a “provocation” by the NGO Peace Now while the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, was in the middle of a visit to Israel. Asked about the decision just before his return to the United States, following tense discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the war in Gaza, Mr. Blinken said: “You know our point of view on the expansion of colonies (…). We have a problem with that. » According to Peace Now, this is the largest land seizure in Palestinian territory since the Oslo peace accords (1993).

Lebanon will “file an urgent complaint with the United Nations Security Council about Israel disrupting navigation systems and civil aviation security” in the airspace of Beirut airport, a communicated the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The text also condemns “Israel’s deliberate policy of jamming air and land navigation systems and deliberately disrupting signal reception and transmission devices.”

On January 7, Beirut airport was the target of a cyberattack. Images broadcast by local media showed anti-Hezbollah messages on screens at the terminal. Lebanon's transport minister, Ali Hamie, said the incident was under investigation, while admitting that Lebanon lacked cybersecurity expertise.