Rafah (illustrative)
Rafah (illustrative)Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

After months of discussions, delays, and international pressure, the IDF is preparing to begin a military operation in Rafah in the near future, Israel Hayom reported.

The decision, which may change in accordance with developments, became final after Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar responded in the negative to a hostage deal proposal.

The Mossad at the time noted that rejection of the proposal, which was put forward by three brokers, "proves that Sinwar is not interested in a humanitarian deal and the return of the hostages, and continues using the tension with Iran to move towards uniting the fronts and a general escalation in the region."

Israel will still coordinate with relevant countries regarding the incursion into Rafah.

The Wall Street Journal noted that Israel's preparations for the ground operation are gaining intensity, and that the evacuation of Rafah's civilian population, which stands at 1.4 million Gazans, will take approximately three weeks, provided Hamas does not prevent the civilians from leaving the area. The operation itself is expected to last for about six weeks.

It is estimated that prior to the operation in Rafah, the IDF will carry out preparations, and then begin evacuating the civilian population. In recent days, the US reported that the Defense Ministry purchased tents for the civilian population evacuated from Rafah.

It is estimated that a substantial number of terrorists have managed to escape to Rafah in recent months, and the IDF has not ruled out intense fighting in the city. However, the four Hamas battalions in Rafah are not Hamas' strongest battalions; the stronger battalions, which have badly suffered in the war with Israel, are based in Gaza City and Khan Yunis.

It is also estimated that some of the hostages were brought to Rafah, and are still there. Though the goal was to bring about the hostages' release through a prisoner swap deal, Sinwar, who is not being pressured by the international community and receives abundant humanitarian aid from Israel, decided to insist on preconditions which are unacceptable to Israel, including the complete cessation of the war.

At the same time, following the ongoing missile attacks from northern Gaza towards southern Israel, the IDF is preparing for a ground incursion into northenr Gaza as well. On Tuesday, the IDF warned Gazans in Beit Lahia to leave their homes.