Destruction: An Inside Look at the Devastation in Rafah, Gaza While Under Israeli Assault

Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, saw the aftermath of Israel’s military ground assault on Hamas in early May, as reported by a CBS News team granted rare access to the decimated city. Despite warnings and concerns from the United States and other allies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the operation, risking the lives of civilians who sought refuge in Rafah throughout the seven-month conflict.

By the end of May, the United Nations reported that approximately 1 million Palestinians had fled Rafah, with many having been displaced more than once. CBS News journalists, including producer Marwan al-Ghoul, documented the war’s devastation since its inception, showcasing the impact on civilians through images and stories. The recent visit marked the first appearance of foreign television news crews in Rafah following the IDF’s operations.

Israel Defense Forces led CBS News into southern Gaza in open-top Humvees, showcasing what the military termed a “terror ecosystem” – an intricate network of underground tunnels built by militants under the city. The discovery of these tunnels, some linking Hamas territories in Gaza to Egypt through the southern border, highlighted the crucial role of smuggling routes for Hamas.

The military presence in Rafah revealed hundreds of boobytrapped houses and the killing of over 900 militants, reportedly making it the last significant Hamas stronghold in Gaza. The ongoing conflict has resulted in devastating losses, with Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry confirming the deaths of nearly 38,000 individuals, primarily women and children. The infrastructure in Gaza, home to around 2.3 million people before the war, has been severely damaged as a result.

The destruction witnessed in Rafah is described as catastrophic, surpassing what was witnessed in Mosul and Raqqa during earlier conflicts. Amid reports of a rift between Netanyahu and the Israeli military on war objectives, with calls for a ceasefire by Israeli commanders due to ammunition shortages, the conflict shows no sign of a swift resolution. As Netanyahu pushes for the destruction of Hamas and the release of Israeli hostages, challenges remain in achieving these goals.

Reports indicate that Hamas fighters, along with Palestinian civilians, have fled Rafah in recent weeks, leaving behind a city in ruins. While Israeli forces continue their operations, the future of Gaza remains uncertain amidst calls for peace and ongoing conflict.