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Rafah heats up as Israeli airstrike kills head of Hamas police special forces

Egypt warns Israel as it beefs up security ahead of expected IDF incursion near border area

Palestinians at the site of a destroyed police car after it was hit from an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on February 7, 2024. (Photo: Atia Mohammed/Flash90)

Palestinian media reported on Wednesday evening that an Israeli airstrike on a police car in Rafah killed the head of Hamas’ police special forces unit, Majdi Abd al-Aal. 

According to Qatari news site Al Jazeera, the strike took place close to a camp for displaced Palestinians who had fled conflict zones in other parts of the Gaza Strip. 

The IDF has stated several times in the last couple of weeks that Rafah, on the border with Egypt, is the next target for operations as it attempts to dismantle Hamas, capture leaders like Yahya Sinwar, and find the remaining 136 hostages. 

On Wednesday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the IDF will “soon go into Rafah,” and addressed concerns raised by the international community about the safety of the Palestinian evacuees in Rafah.

Netanyahu said Israel Defense Forces will enter Rafah, “as they have done up to now, by providing the civilian population safe passage to safe zones, and they’ll do so in spite of Hamas’ evil attempts to stop the civilians from leaving at gunpoint.” 

While U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared the Biden administration’s concerns about an Israeli incursion into Rafah, Israeli security officials have consistently stated that such a move is critical to Israel achieving its goals. 

The IDF said yesterday that intelligence indicates Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has fled to Rafah and is likely surrounded by at least some Israeli hostages.

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials warned the Israeli government that if Palestinians were forced to evacuate into Egypt, it would suspend the current peace treaty with Israel which has been in place since 1979. 

Egypt has repeatedly voiced concerns that Hamas members could infiltrate Egypt and use the rugged terrain of the Sinai Peninsula to stage attacks on Israel. 

Israeli officials have said that the IDF will prepare a humanitarian zone in the northern Gaza Strip for refugees to flee from Rafah ahead of an IDF push into the area. 

Egypt opposes the Hamas terror group on ideological grounds, as the organization is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt has attempted to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood multiple times in its history, most recently under current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. 

Egypt recently began boosting its security forces along its border with Gaza ahead of the expected IDF incursion. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, the IDF notified Egypt of at least 12 tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula which may still be active. Israeli officials are concerned that Hamas leaders and Israeli hostages could be smuggled through the tunnels. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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