Given Israel's stated goal in the war is destruction of Hamas, why did they attack the Gaza strip from the North instead of from the South? The latter seems more sensible since taking Rafah first would trap Hamas' fighters against the Mediterranean. By attacking from the North instead, Hamas' fighters could conceivably flee via Egypt.

I'm looking for any public statements about this by Israeli officials, if any have been made; or an explanation why this would not make military sense.

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    Egypt's present government considers Hamas an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, so very bad people. Also, they've sent their own tanks to the border, which may have a dual purpose, but many interpreted as being insurance against any moves by the Palestinians. So the premise of the Q that Hamas could flee to Egypt is pretty questionable. (In any case, the IDF took the Rafah border crossing today or yesterday.) Commented May 8 at 6:51

3 Answers 3


Military reasons
Northern Gaza poses more direct threat - notably in terms of firing rockets at Israeli communities or carrying the attacks, like that of October 7 (see the map below). Indeed, most of the territory on the same longitude as Gaza is the sparsely populated Negev desert - Beersheba being the most populated place with about 200,000 inhabitants. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other highly populated towns are to the north of Gaza.
(image source)
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Likewise, the north of Gaza is densely populated (notably the Gaza City), and likely to contain most of Hamas' infrastructure:
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Humanitarian reasons
Invading from the north also allowed civilians to flee to the south of Gaza, which borders with Egypt. This would enable to those, having Egyptian passports and visas to exit the strip. It would also allowed resupplying the strip via Egypt, rather than via the crossing points in Israel, which are most vulnerable to the attacks - in fact, this is how it was during the first weeks of the war.

Some would also add that this could have allowed potential expulsion of Gazans to Egypt - the idea was publicly discussed by some extreme right wing ministers, but it is not clear whether it had ever affected the military planning.

Political reasons
Invasion of Rafah, particularly the Philadelphi corridor is problematic in view of the relations between Israel and Egypt, which assume demilitarization of the areas near the border, as a guarantee of non-agression by both sides (or being able to detect the preparations for such an aggression well in advance.) Indeed, it took some haggling between Israel and Egypt, before Egypt tacitly accepted that it would not abrogate the peace treaty between the two countries, if Israel invades Rafah (see, e.g., here and here.)


Another reason not mentioned in the other answers is the force distribution of Hamas. Most of Hamas's battalions (about 75%) and operations are in the central and northern areas of the strip, mainly Gaza City and Khan-Yunis. By attacking in Gaza City first, they strike at the heart of Hamas, eliminating a large number of its regiments and its HQs, as was found under Al-Shifa hospital. In the Khan-Yunis sector, there was a Hamas large intelligence center under UNRWA's server station.

To contrast, Rafah's battalions are weaker and smaller and pose little tactical significance. Rafah is important now also because that's where the hostages were moved to, but intelligence has shown that the hostages were initially brought to Gaza City, which made it even more significant at the start of the war.

To sum it up, it's about the gain compared to the investment of forces. Gaza City and then Khan-Yunis were much more beneficial targets than Rafah.

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    "its HQs, as was found under Al-Shifa hospital" citation needed. "the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Sky News stated that this did not constitute conclusive evidence to demonstrate the use by Hamas of a command center." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Shifa_Hospital#Israeli_media_campaign Commented May 10 at 4:12

The geography of Gaza is limiting for Israeli operations and because of that the Israel Defence Forces tend to use the same approach routes.

There are rural areas of farmland next to the Erez crossing in the far north of Gaza, around Bureij south of Gaza City where there is ridge line overlooking central Gaza, and to the east of Khan Yunis in the south where tanks and armour can move more easily and take up firing positions. Another access point is around the Philadelphi Route near Rafah in the far south.

Israel has in the past used positions overlooking central Gaza to try to cut communications between Gaza City and the south and elsewhere to carve up the area.


Tanks can easily move from the North, and because the South shares a border with Egypt, it's easier to attack from multiple direction. Moreover, the Netzarim corridor, which is a corridor built by Israel to facilitate military access, is closer to the North, making a multi flank attack easier in the North than in the South. Furthermore, attacking close to the border with Egypt may fuel tensions between the two. In addition, at the bottom there's two crossings used by refugees, and since Israel wants Palestinians to leave Gaza, it doesn't make sense to attack them from the South, which will prompt some people to flee through the North.


The Netzarim Corridor1 or Route 749[2] is an east–west passage through the Gaza Strip built by the Israeli Defense Force to permit them access for military purposes.[3] Satellite imagery from March 6, 2024, showed that the 4-mile (6.5 km) long corridor has been completed, reaching from the Gaza-Israeli border to the Mediterranean Sea.[4] The IDF considers this corridor to be essential for carrying out raids in northern and central Gaza, as well as securely channeling aid into the region.[5]



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