CALL FOR GENOCIDE: Israeli minister demands “total annihilation” of Rafah – a city where 1.5 million Gazans are sheltering
05/05/2024 // Cassie B. // Views

Although ceasefire talks have been making headlines again in the Middle East, Israel does not appear to be backing down on its desire to wipe out Gaza, with Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich recently calling for the “total annihilation” of Rafah along with several other cities in the Gaza Strip.

Smotrich implied that this destruction is part of their biblical duty, referring to a line in the Bible about Amalek. In the book of Deuteronomy, ancient Israelites were commanded to destroy Amalek, while the book of Samuel told them to “slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.”

The finance minister stated: “There are no half measures. Rafah, Deir al-Balah, Nuseirat – total annihilation. ‘You will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven’ – there’s no place under heaven.”

He is not the only Israeli politician drawing this comparison; the country's leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has also compared Gaza to Amalek, saying in October: “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible. And we do remember, and we are fighting.”

His comments were presented as evidence of Israel’s genocidal rhetoric at the International Court of Justice in a genocide case raised by South Africa against the Jewish state.

Should Smotrich get his wish and annihilate Rafah, it would be absolutely devastating. There are currently around 1.5 million civilians sheltering in the city, or half of Gaza’s population. The finance minister does not think that Israel should accept any type of hostage deal that could help avoid activity in Rafah, saying that striking a deal would be a “humiliating defeat.”

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He said: “Don’t wave a white flag. Don’t let Sinwar humiliate us again and win the war. A government that submits to international pressure and stops the war in the middle will, at that moment, lose its right to exist.”

It may be a moot point as Netanyahu vowed this week that Israel will launch an incursion into Rafah “with or without a deal.” He made his comments just a few hours before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel to conduct a serious round of negotiations aimed at freeing hostages, providing some relief to Gazans and holding off an Israeli offensive in Rafah.

Netanyahu is facing political pressure to enter Rafah

Netanyahu's statement, which some believe may have been released to appeal to far-right leaders in his governing coalition, said: “The idea that we will stop the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question. We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate Hamas’ battalions there — with or without a deal, to achieve the total victory.”

His governing partners have been pressuring him not to agree to any deal that could prevent them from invading Rafah. Besides Smotrich, another minister who is eager to go after Rafah is National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who claims Netanyahu told him that “Israel will enter Rafah, promised that we are not stopping the war and promised that there won’t be a reckless deal.”

If just one of the parties that is opposed to a deal decides to pull out of the coalition, Netanyahu’s government could collapse.

The U.S. has stated on multiple occasions that it wants Israel to develop a realistic plan to evacuate and protect the people seeking shelter in Rafah before they carry out operations there.

The deal that is currently under discussion involves releasing dozens of hostages in exchange for a six-week-long stop in fighting and the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who are being held by Israel. However, the main sticking point is where things would go from there. Hamas is seeking a complete end to Israel’s assault on Gaza, while Israel is only willing to agree to an extended pause.

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