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Israel Pursues 'Critical' Rafah Battle, Defends against Legal Attack as Gaza Aid Pier Nears Completion

A ship is seen off the coast of Gaza near a U.S.-built floating pier that will be used to facilitate aid deliveries, as seen from the central Gaza Strip, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
A ship is seen off the coast of Gaza near a U.S.-built floating pier that will be used to facilitate aid deliveries, as seen from the central Gaza Strip, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

JERUSALEM, Israel – From the battleground in Gaza to the legal battles at The Hague, Israel is fighting on multiple fronts. Still, Israel is finding allies on Capitol Hill and among Christian leaders.   

Despite international condemnation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told soldiers that Israel's operation into Rafah – the last major stronghold of Hamas with four battalions – will go on, and is crucial.

"The battle in Rafah is critical," Netanyahu stated. "It's not just the rest of their battalions, it's also their oxygen pipes for escape and resupply. This battle, of which you are an integral part, is a battle that decides many things in this campaign. I repeat: we are in a critical battle now. Your action helps to end it."

Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says more Israel Defense Forces troops will soon join the fighting in Rafah. He also asserts the IDF is cutting of Hamas' ability to rearm and resupply.

“The meaning is we are turning off the tap (on Hamas), we are wearing (Hamas) down," he explained.

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However, South Africa is asking the International Court of Justice to order Israel to stop its attack on Rafah, and indeed, get out of the Gaza Strip altogether.

"Immediately, totally and unconditionally withdraw (the) Israeli army from the entirety of the Gaza Strip," insisted South African Ambassador to The Netherlands, Vusimuzi Madonsela.

However, Israel's representative in The Hague, Gilad Noam, emphasized the importance of the Rafah operation after strongly criticizing South Africa's legal action.

"There are dozens of tunnels in Rafah, including those that cross into Egypt. Abductees are held in these tunnels," Noam said.

Israel is defended its war conduct before the court on Friday.

The first aid shipments from the newly-built U.S floating pier to bring humanitarian supplies from offshore into Gaza have arrived. A State Department spokesman says that's crucial as deliveries by land continue to be disrupted by the war, terror attacks, and hijackings.

Hamas promises to attack any foreign troops seen helping to bring in aid via that new pier.

In Washington, congressional Republicans, joined by 26 Democrats, have passed a bill to force President Joe Biden to send weapons to Israel.

Biden already stopped one shipment of bombs and threatens to halt more deliveries if Israel launches a full-scale invasion of Rafah.

House Speaker Mike Johnson declared, "This is a catastrophic decision with global implications. It is obviously being done as a political calculation, and we cannot let this stand."

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise cautioned, "If you're not supporting Israel, you're supporting Hamas – a terrorist organization. And so, when President Biden said he wants to hold back on those arms sales, he is holding back on Israel's ability to go and fight a war against Hamas. The only other person that really wants that is Hamas."

But the bill may go no further since both Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer oppose it.

On Thursday, the National Religious Broadcasters reissued a letter sent by more than 150 Christian leaders to President Biden.

The letter expressed concern for the White House's unprecedented interference in the affairs of a close ally and called for a course correction.

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