The War is Lost – But Why is Netanyahu Killing Civilians in Rafah?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Design: Palestine Chronicle)

By Ramzy Baroud  

The Israeli leader is just buying time, though. Israel’s top generals and military experts and analysts know that the war has been lost and that prolonging it will not, in any way, alter its predictable outcomes.

Just hours after Israel carried out a gruesome massacre of displaced Palestinians in the Tel Al-Sultan area west of Rafah in the Gaza Strip on 26 May, it carried out yet another massacre in the Al-Mawasi area. The first is now known as the “Tents Massacre”.

It took place shortly after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) finally issued a stern demand that, “Israel must immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in Rafah which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

The killing of 50 Palestinians in their own displacement tents was the answer given by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist government to the ICJ and the rest of the international community. The successive Israeli massacres in Rafah demonstrate the degree of intransigence of Israel’s genocidal regime.

Netanyahu and his Minister of Defence, Yoav Gallant, who could both be on the official “wanted” list of the International Criminal Court (ICC) within weeks, could easily have chosen a different path, even for mere political maneuvering. They could, for example, have delayed their Rafah operation or changed strategies, just to avoid further ICJ rulings on the matter.

Their 2000lb bunker-busting bombs dismembered and beheaded children as they lay beside their mothers in makeshift camps that have no water, no electricity and no food. While the Israeli army offered the world a clearly concocted version of what happened, blaming “militants” and such, Netanyahu’s office described the attack as a mistake.

Both versions, of course, were lies. The Israeli army possesses some of the most advanced surveillance technology in the world, thanks to US generosity and continued support. It could easily have distinguished between a Palestinian Resistance operational area and a refugee camp filled with children and women.

If the attack was indeed a mistake, what explains the other massacres that followed, also in Rafah and in nearby Mawasi, which killed and maimed scores of refugees? And what is the logic behind the killing and wounding of nearly 130,000 Palestinians since the start of the war on 7 October, the majority of whom were women and children?

The Tents Massacre was neither a mistake, nor can it be blamed on imaginary militants operating from inside displaced refugees’ tents. Nevertheless, Netanyahu did have his own logic. For a start, he wanted to send a direct message to let the ICJ know that Israel is not perturbed by its direct order to end the Rafah operation. The intended audience of this message was not necessarily the ICJ judges, but the international community, which remains, despite its solidarity rhetoric, ineffectual in influencing the duration, direction or nature of the Israeli war.

Netanyahu also wanted to score cheap political points against his rivals in his War Cabinet, by presenting himself as the bold Israeli leader who is standing up to the whole world. He has stated over and over again that “[the Jewish people] will stand alone.”

The Israeli leader must also have been informed that more Israeli soldiers had been captured by the Palestinian Resistance. The latter’s statement about this on 25 May was issued just one day before Netanyahu attacked Rafah. From a military point of view, the capturing of more soldiers who were sent to Gaza supposedly to free other Israeli captives should have been a “game over” moment.

The Gaza Resistance hasn’t released any more information since the initial, brief statement by Al-Qassam military spokesman, Abu Obeida. Hamas is known for releasing information to the public when it is strategically most opportune to do so, as was the case in its announcement that it is holding Israeli Colonel Asaf Hamami, who Israel declared to be dead last December.

Netanyahu and his army are trying desperately to pre-empt the angry reaction in Israeli society about the capture of soldiers by keeping the news focused on Rafah.

Moreover, the timing of the massacre was also a message to the US, the mediators (Egypt and Qatar), Hamas and even members of the War Cabinet who are keen on ending the war through a truce agreement. Media reports have spoken about a potential breakthrough in talks, starting in Paris before moving to Doha, which showed some willingness on the part of Israel to link the release of prisoners to a permanent truce.

Such an agreement would be considered a defeat from Netanyahu’s point of view, and would certainly usher in the end of his political career. Hence, he simply lashed out against the refugees of Rafah with the hope of disrupting any potential deal in Doha.

It was for the same reason that his troops opened fire at Egyptian soldiers at the Rafah Crossing, killing one, possibly two, and wounding more. Egypt has been an important mediator in the truce talks. Attacking the mediator is not only humiliating for the Egyptian government, but for the army and Egyptian people as well.

Although Netanyahu has no strategy for the war itself, he has a strategy for prolonging his own political survival. It is predicated on mixing the political cards, ensuring chaos and carrying out constant massacres against civilians, all safe in the knowledge that Washington will always remain on his side no matter what.

The Israeli leader is just buying time, though. Israel’s top generals and military experts and analysts know that the war has been lost and that prolonging it will not, in any way, alter its predictable outcomes.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out


  1. “The Jewish people will stand alone.”

    Really? And, according to Netanyahu, exactly what can the genocidal Zionist entity possibly do on its own, without all those billions of dollars of free American taxpayer money it receives; the massive amount of free U.S.-supplied military weapons it receives; as well as the unlimited protection it receives from the U.S. government?

    Without all of the above, the Zionist occupiers of the Palestinian homeland would never be able to survive for more than five days.

    • As much as you’d like to, you can’t rewrite history. History shows the world that the Jewish people were the first to occupy that land. Nobody is saying that what became known as the Palestinian population, eventually showed up. Want undisputed proof? Look to the archaeological digs that have taken place. Tons of Hebrew artifacts have been unearthed. Not a single shred of Palestinian related artifacts. Regardless, neither culture is going anywhere. The sooner that is accepted the better off you will both be. Think to the future, think of the kids. Enough with these childish games.

      • Attempting to rewrite history is exactly what Zionist descendants of the East European Khazar Jewish converts have been doing this whole time, especially ever since the time that they began to unwelcomingly arrive in the Palestinian homeland (at the end of the 19th century), with the full intention of stealing away that land, and completely removing the Palestinian culture from that land.

        However, before finally choosing Palestine, the Zionists had also considered four other places for creating their imaginary “Jewish homeland”: Uganda, Argentina, Texas, and upstate New York.

      • In terms of the original Jews (who have no genetic relation with the descendants of 8th century East European Khazar Jewish converts), they did not originate in the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, which was originally the land of the Canaanites (who were ancestors of the Palestinians). The original Jews (ancient Hebrews) had immigrated to that particular region from Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).

        “Under Christianity and during the Roman Empire, a large number of native Jews converted to Christianity and – with the advent of Islam – most adopted the new religion and assimilated under the new power.”

      • “Founded on a melange of myths and manufactured historical tales, Israel has failed the archaeological test of time and is now exposed by DNA science.”

        “Today’s genetics prove unequivocally that in 1948, the ‘children of the original Jews’ were replaced by 8th century converts with no roots in the Middle East.”

  2. Moreover, when Netanyahu attempts to represent the Jewish people, is he not already aware by now, that there are so many Jews out there (and the number is rapidly growing) who are extremely opposed to Israel, Zionism, and the ongoing genocide that’s been taking place against the Palestinians (over the past 76 years) inside their occupied homeland?

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