May 22, 2024

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Satellite images show Israeli forces gathering in preparation for escalation in Gaza News of the Israeli war on Gaza

Satellite images show Israeli forces gathering in preparation for escalation in Gaza  News of the Israeli war on Gaza

Israel appears ready to escalate its devastating war on Gaza after deploying troops and vehicles to military bases and nearby settlement sites outside the Strip, according to satellite images obtained and evaluated by the Sanad Verification Unit on the island.

The analysis indicates that Israel has deployed more than 800 military vehicles at two bases. At least 120 vehicles are stationed on the northern border of the Gaza Strip, and 700 vehicles are stationed in the Negev desert to the south.

Satellite images also reveal that Israel has established nine military sites outside the Strip. Three of them were created in November and December 2023, and six were created between January and March of this year. These outposts house soldiers, operational command centers, and military vehicles.

The findings indicate that Israel plans to continue its war on Gaza, which it launched after Hamas' surprise attack on Israeli population centers and military sites on October 7, despite global condemnation.

The Israeli war led to the death of nearly 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza, the displacement of most of the population, and the destruction of 62 percent of all homes.

According to Israeli officials, about 1,139 people were killed in the Hamas attack on October 7, and about 250 others were captured.

Al Jazeera's satellite analysis supports the view of many experts who say that Israel will devote most of its military resources to its campaign in Gaza, despite withdrawing the majority of its forces from the Strip in recent weeks.

“My general feeling is that [Israeli] The security establishment will likely prioritize ending Gaza, then turn to other threats – whether they are [the Lebanese group] “Hezbollah or Iran,” said Hugh Lovatt, an expert on Israel and Palestine at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

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Analysis of satellite images shows the presence of approximately 120 military vehicles at the Zikim base on the northern side of the border with Gaza [Planet Labs PBC]

On April 18, US and Israeli officials met to discuss a possible operation in Rafah, a town on the border with Egypt that currently provides relative safety to more than 1.4 million Palestinians displaced within the Strip.

This meeting followed rumors that the United States would support a large-scale invasion of Rafah – after previously expressing public reservations – in exchange for guarantees that Israel would not escalate its tit-for-tat attacks with Iran.

US officials have denied these reports, but Israel has greater leverage to attack Rafah by raising the specter of regional escalation, according to Omar Rahman, an expert on Israeli-Palestinian affairs at the Qatar-based Middle East Council for Global Affairs.

“Israelis have made an art form out of getting a price for doing something or not doing something, whether they actually intend to do it or not,” he told Al Jazeera.

Experts said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will also try to take advantage of the Iranian attack on Israel to strengthen his domestic position.

On April 14, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel in response to an Israeli raid on its consulate in the Syrian capital, Damascus. Iran had warned of its attack days in advance, and Israel and allied countries shot down almost all incoming strikes.

Days later, Israel appeared to respond with a minor strike on Iran's Isfahan air base, which also hosts nuclear facilities. While Iran downplayed the raid and Israel never commented on it publicly, perhaps in an attempt by both sides to calm tensions, Israel reiterated its plans to attack Rafah.

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“I think because of fear [among regional allies] “If we don’t escalate with Iran — which is the nightmare scenario people can imagine — they will become more interested in alternative options,” said Eyal Lurie-Pardes, an expert on Israel and Palestine at the US-based Middle East Institute.

“That is why Netanyahu is trying to take advantage of the diplomatic position he holds to pursue his ambition to occupy Rafah and move forward with the operation there.”

It was established between January and February of this year, and is located 4 km east of the Gaza Strip, opposite the Khuza’a area.  It contains houses, artillery batteries, vehicles, and troop housing.
This military site was established between January and February, 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) east of Gaza, opposite the Khuza'a area. It contains houses, artillery batteries, vehicles, and living quarters for troops [Planet Labs PBC]

“Promoting false beliefs”

Recent Israeli attacks and warnings in Gaza have raised fears of a larger attack on Rafah.

Palestinian health officials said that Israeli air attacks over the weekend killed at least 22 people, including 18 children, in the southern city.

Merav Zonszen, an expert on Israel and Palestine at the Belgium-based International Crisis Group, told Al Jazeera that Israel had always planned to invade Rafah, regardless of US support for its operations.

She added that Netanyahu has a habit of creating a false belief that he will do nothing to secure influence or support on other issues, citing the prime minister's previous agreement to halt the actual annexation of the occupied West Bank in exchange for signing peace agreements with various Arab governments.

“Israel was still annexing [the West Bank] “She's still doing it, but she's got the agreements,” Zonszyn said. “For the most part, Israel just does what it wants [US President] Biden has fallen in love with it or he's not up to the task [pressure Israel] Not doing things.”

Lowry-Pardis also believes that Netanyahu will not be deterred from invading Rafah and that the operation will come sooner rather than later, which is consistent with Al Jazeera's satellite analysis.

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“Netanyahu will not give up this position – or the influence – he has now [to go into Rafah]Lowry-Pardis said.