Israel wants to increase military pressure on the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip – and is raising concerns about a possible imminent offensive against the city of Rafah. Chief of General Staff Herzi Halevi approved “further steps” to continue the war, said army spokesman Daniel Hagari.

The Israeli Kan broadcaster reported that part of the plans was a military operation in Rafah in the south on the border with Egypt. An evacuation of the civilian population is apparently expected shortly. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously announced “further painful blows” against Hamas in a video address on the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins this evening. “And this will happen shortly.”

Israel’s allies had urgently warned against an offensive in Rafah because hundreds of thousands of Palestinian internally displaced people are crowding there. However, Israel believes an operation is necessary to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions. Otherwise she could regain strength.

Biden: Passover is hard for families of hostages

US President Joe Biden reiterated his commitment to Israel’s security on the occasion of Passover. “My commitment to the security of the Jewish people, the security of Israel and its right to exist as an independent Jewish state is ironclad,” Joe Biden said in a statement. The festival commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and their liberation from slavery.

“This Passover is particularly hard for families of hostages who are trying to honor the spirit of the holiday – a story centered on freedom – while their loved ones remain in captivity.” Israel’s government, meanwhile, called on the US to reconsider an apparently planned sanction of one of the Israeli army’s battalions.

Not only would this damage Israel’s international legitimacy in the fight against Hamas, but there is also no justification for the US, said War Cabinet member Benny Gantz, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as quoted by the Times of Israel Gantz’s office reported.

The US news portal Axios reported over the weekend, citing three people familiar with the matter, that Blinken was expected to announce sanctions against the largely ultra-Orthodox battalion in the next few days for human rights violations in the West Bank. The Times of Israel, citing two US sources, also reported that the US would also consider sanctions against other military and police units over suspected human rights violations. The investigations had been ongoing for over a year.

Israel reportedly criticizes planned US sanctions

Israeli Defense Minister Joav Galant also criticized the apparently planned measures: “I expect the American government to reverse its intention to impose sanctions against the Netzah Yehuda Battalion,” said Galant in a statement published by the Defense Ministry, warning that the planned The move would set a “dangerous” precedent.

Any attempt to criticize an entire unit casts a heavy shadow on the actions of the entire army, Galant said, according to his office. This is “not the right path for partners and friends”. The Army had previously said it was not aware of reports of U.S. sanctions against the battalion. Should a decision be made, the consequences would be examined.

Hardly any German war weapons exports to Israel

The federal government has hardly approved exports of military weapons to Israel since the beginning of the year. Deliveries for 32,449 euros were permitted until April 10, as the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced at the request of MP Sevim Dagdelen from the Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW). In addition, there are deliveries of other military equipment worth 10.03 million euros.

Last year, the federal government gave the green light to arms exports worth 326.5 million euros to Israel – ten times as much as the previous year. Most of it was approved after the massacre carried out by terrorists from Hamas and other groups in Israel on October 7 last year. They killed more than 1,200 people and kidnapped around 250 others to Gaza. It was the trigger for the war.

Israel responded to the terrorist attack with massive air strikes and a ground offensive. However, given the high number of civilian casualties and the catastrophic situation in Gaza, Israel came under strong international criticism. According to the Hamas-controlled health authority, more than 34,000 people have been killed and nearly 77,000 others injured in Gaza so far. The numbers, which do not distinguish between fighters and civilians, cannot be independently verified.

Tensions continue on Israel’s border with Lebanon

Meanwhile, the situation on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon remains tense. The Israeli army announced that a drone belonging to its own air force was hit by a surface-to-air missile in Lebanese airspace and fell into Lebanese territory. Warplanes attacked the launch base from which the missile was fired, it said. The incident is being investigated.

Fighting broke out again at the border. The Israeli army said two bullets were fired in the direction of the town of Rosh Hanikra in northern Israel. The Israeli army attacked the locations from which the shooting took place.

Hezbollah and Hamas claimed attacks on Israel on Sunday. Since October 8th, the pro-Iranian Hezbollah from Lebanon has been firing rockets, artillery and anti-tank grenades into northern Israel – out of “solidarity” with Hamas in Gaza, as it claims. Israel is using air and artillery strikes to combat Hezbollah’s positions, which, according to a UN Security Council decision, should not be that close to the border.

What will be important on Monday

The foreign and defense ministers of the EU states meet in Luxembourg. In addition to an exchange with her colleagues from Ukraine about their defense against Russia, discussions about the situation in the Middle East are also on the agenda. In New York today, a group of experts appointed by the United Nations presented a final report on the allegations against the UN Palestinian relief agency UNRWA. According to Israel, several employees are said to have been involved in the Hamas massacre in Israel.