Israel’s Attack on Rafah Must Proceed. Here’s Why

In 1944, as the Allies were preparing for the D-Day landings in Normandy, it is unfathomable that anyone sought to pressure British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt to halt the landings and enter a ceasefire agreement with Nazi Germany. Yet that is exactly what the international community is seeking to do with Israel, in pressuring the Jewish state to enter a one-sided ceasefire with Hamas and avert a necessary operation in Rafah.

Although the perpetrators may have changed 80 years later, Hamas’ monstrous savagery and agenda is no different to the Nazis. And just as Normandy was a pivotal turning point in World War II, putting the Allies on a decisive path toward victory, so too can be an IDF operation in Rafah, the last remaining Hamas stronghold in southern Gaza.

Yet since its establishment in 1948, the Jewish state has been the only democracy repeatedly denied the right to achieve total victory against enemies who have time and again initiated wars and now pogroms too, seeking no less than its very annihilation.

A fireball erupts during Israeli bombardment on Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 26.

SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images

This week, for the first time, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, following the United States’ decision to abstain from the vote. Meantime, both the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, have been exerting overwhelming pressure on Israel to avoid a ground operation in Rafah.

However, any leader’s primary duty is, first and foremost, to defend their nation. In Israel’s case, this follows in response to the most heinous massacre perpetrated against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, and one in which 134 people, including children, elderly people, and women, suffering horrific ongoing sexual abuse at the hands of their Hamas captors, remain hostage in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel “will not compromise on less than total victory over Hamas.”

“Victory” in this sense includes destroying Hamas’s military and governing capability to ensure there can never be a repeat of Oct. 7, that Hamas cannot constitute a threat to Israel, and the return of all hostages.

It is currently estimated that up to 60 percent of Hamas’ 30,000-strong terrorist force in Gaza has been either eliminated, severely wounded or arrested by IDF forces since Oct. 7, while at least 20 of their 24 battalions have been dismantled, with the remaining 4 battalions still present in Rafah. Israel is also operating on the working assumption that Hamas is holding hostages captive in Rafah as well.

Simply put, the IDF cannot complete its military aims, without a full ground incursion into Rafah, to take out the remaining Hamas battalions. Those who are seeking to pressure Israel to refrain from entering Rafah are denying the Jewish state the decisive victory it has every right to pursue against Hamas after the pogrom of Oct. 7.

On the contrary, the failure to go into Rafah will be seen as a victory by Hamas, as are calls for a unilateral ceasefire. Any such move by Israel would allow the terror group to re-arm and use Rafah to transfer of weapons into other areas of Gaza. It would also remove any incentive to release the remaining 134 hostages.

At present, there are an estimated 1 million civilians in Rafah, and Israel must continue to make every effort to avoid harming them, providing safe passage corridors and facilitating the provision of humanitarian aid. While complex, this is entirely possible, and not mutually exclusive with a military operation in Rafah. The Israel Defense Forces have gone to unprecedented lengths, not seen in the history of modern warfare, to avoid and minimize harm to civilian casualties in highly challenging urban warfare combat zones.

In 1940, in his first speech as prime minister in the House of Commons, Churchill was asked what Britain’s policy would be against the Nazis. He declared: “I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs; victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

Israel’s policy must be no different and no less than total victory. And all roads to victory over Hamas—and to the return of the hostages—lead through Rafah.

Arsen Ostrovsky is a human rights lawyer and CEO of the International Legal Forum. You can follow him on ‘X’ at: @Ostrov_A. Richard Kemp is a former British Army commander.

The views expressed in this article are the writers’ own.