By Athena Papakosta

Hamas may have accepted the truce proposal it received from Egypt and Qatar, but the city of Rafah did not escape its fate.

Israel’s War Council gave the go-ahead and the Israeli Armed Forces (IDF) launched what they called “targeted” attacks on the eastern part of the city that remained, the last refuge in the Gaza Strip for at least a million displaced civilians.

Blurry landscape

The upheavals in the diplomatic scene in the last few hours have been dramatic. While everyone believed that the ceasefire talks were collapsing and Hamas would back down, its political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, in a sudden announcement declared that the Islamist Palestinian organization accepts the draft-proposal for a ceasefire and dropped the ball. back to Israel.

Tel Aviv’s response came a few hours later. According to the statement issued by the office of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the terms agreed to by Hamas do not satisfy the Israeli side. Nevertheless, a working delegation was ordered to go to Cairo to continue the talks.

The United States, Egypt and Qatar are still pushing for a ceasefire agreement.

The head of the CIA, William Burns, who already had repeated meetings with the Prime Minister of Qatar in Doha, seat of the political leadership of Hamas, does not remain in the region.

At the same time, the representative of the State Department, Matthew Miller, underlined that Washington will discuss, within the next hours, the response of Hamas with its partners, noting that an agreement is “absolutely possible”.

The last refuge

The United States remains opposed to a full-scale ground attack on Rafah. However, Israel insists that there is no other alternative than total victory and the neutralization of Hamas.

Before the War Council gave the green light to start this nightmarish scenario, the Israeli Armed Forces had already ordered the evacuation of parts of the eastern part of the city of Rafah. The warning concerned 100,000 civilians but, as reported by international media, thousands of others began to leave along with them, fearing that their stay in Rafa now endangers their lives.

Netanyahu under (triple) pressure

Analysts judge Netanyahu’s “obsession” with invading the last civilian refuge in the Gaza Strip as a consequence of the political pressure exerted against the Israeli prime minister, within his governing coalition, by its most hard-line members. The far-right of his government are threatening to oust the Israeli prime minister if Israel does not bring Gaza’s southernmost city under its control and instead opts for a ceasefire.

However, Netanyahu is under pressure from his relatives as well as from thousands of ordinary citizens, who remain on the streets of Israel demanding the exact opposite, that is to conclude an agreement here and now in order to return the hostages.

But the American administration of Biden is also exerting pressure as Israel’s closest ally has entered the pre-election period and the American president, claiming his re-election, needs to show that the strategy of the United States is finally bearing fruit and for this purpose, the request remains the reaching an agreement that will spare Rafa from the worst and calm the university campuses that have been on fire for weeks due to student protests.

Netanyahu’s choices

The Israeli prime minister is in a difficult position. On the one hand, his political survival is threatened, and on the other, Washington’s vital support for Israel. Hamas’s sudden yes derailed his plans, reshuffled the deck, and despite fresh blows against Rafa, Benjamin Netanyahu will have to bow to new negotiations and possibly even make tough decisions.