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Forecast podcast: Israel launches Rafah offensive after rejecting ceasefire proposal

Two camouflaged tanks with an Israeli flag display, staged on pavement against a backdrop of palm trees and a clear blue sky.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Agnese Boffano discuss Israel’s military operation in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, plus more on South Sudan peace talks, Eurovision protests, elections in Spain’s Catalonia region and Singapore’s prime minister stepping down.

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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Agnese Boffano, Awais Ahmad, Alex Moore, Irene Villora and Hua Hsieh. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

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Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is May 9.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got Israel’s operation into Rafah, South Sudan peace talks, Eurovision protests, elections in Spain’s Catalonia region and Singapore’s prime minister stepping down.

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you’ll find a link to in the show notes.

Rafah operation

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Up first we’ll take a look at Israel’s operation into Rafah. For more on that I’ve got fellow Factal editor Agnese Boffano.

JIMMY: Hello, Agnese!

AGNESE: Hey, Jimmy!

JIMMY: Agnese, I am so glad you’re here. We saw a pretty significant development in the war in Gaza and I’m hoping you can get us up to speed. So, I guess to start, what’s happened? 

AGNESE: Yeah, it’s been quite a few months now that we’ve been all expecting a full Israeli military invasion of Rafah, which was kind of put on hold following a series of direct confrontations between Israel and Iran last month. But more recently, you’re right, there was an escalation on Sunday, the armed wing of Hamas, al-Qassam [Brigades], they fired multiple rockets toward the southern Israeli town of Karem Shalom, which is adjacent to one of the key border crossings for aid into the Gaza Strip. And this particular incident ended up killing four Israeli soldiers, and quickly after that the army said that it was targeting areas east of Rafah until eventually on Monday morning, the military announced evacuation orders for about 100,000 people living in, or currently residing in, this neighborhood. And these Palestinians, who have already been displaced multiple times in the last six-plus months of war, they were told to evacuate to the al-Mawasi area along the coast (where refugee housing conditions are already extremely dire) or in areas in Khan Yunis, a city just north of Rafah, which has already witnessed a large military offensive earlier in the year and is now essentially reduced to complete rubble. But anyways, they issued this evacuation order ahead of its ground offensive later in the day which eventually culminated on Tuesday morning after hours of fighting when Israel said that it had entered the southern city and gained, as I said, “full operational control” of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

JIMMY: And what’s the latest? I know things are still developing, but what’s new?

AGNESE: The latest is a lot of just a lot of chaos and insecurity. Hundreds of families have already fled from Rafah to other areas because of this looming threat of an offensive, which has so far not reached the main refugee shelters and the central areas. We’re seeing a situation similar to that of Gaza City at the beginning of the war, and of Khan Yunis a few months ago, where, you know, entire neighborhoods are being told to evacuate and it’s not only families we’re talking about, we’re talking about medical premises, NGO workers, only this time they really have no safe place to flee to without being overwhelmed by more hunger and lack of aid or by being faced with entire rubble cities. The issue of the border crossings, as well, is extremely volatile as Egypt really hasn’t commented on its side of the border in Rafah but the fact that Israel has taken operational control of the Palestinian side does mean that there’s no aid trucks coming into the Gaza Strip, and it also means that there’s no longer a possibility for Palestinians to flee to neighboring Egypt. Not only that, there’s not only aid, but there’s no fuel, also, coming into the Gaza Strip because of this border crossing closure, and the WHO estimated yesterday, on Wednesday, that the hospitals in the southern territory have about 3 days of fuel – just enough to sustain their medical operations. So, that’s on the ground. The latest also about that ceasefire negotiations is that they are continuing, but Israel and Hamas have the latest ceasefire proposal that is available to see definitely has some points that Israel had previously deemed as red-lines, for example the lifting of the blockade in the Gaza Strip which even precedes Oct. 7 is something that Hamas denies and is something that Israel has been very adamant on not agreeing to.

JIMMY: What sort of reactions have you seen to Israel’s operation into Rafah?

AGNESE: I’ll start with the reaction in Israel maybe. The government and especially its right-wing cabinet has been calling for a Rafah invasion for months now and, you know, it has continued to press on with the rhetoric of continuing the operation – eliminating Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But I have to say it’s being met with significant criticism from Israelis themselves because they say that this operation hinders the negotiations to get the more than 130 hostages that are still being held captive in Gaza. I think internationally, by now we can agree that most actors and countries have condemned at least this initial ground offensive by the Israeli military in Rafah, and have generally called for Israel not to go ahead with the full invasion of the city. And I think this condemnation has also come from the Biden administration. You know, security reports are suggesting the US has paused arms shipments to Israel because of this looming threat of an invasion. So that’s the government side. But, as well, worth mentioning are NGOs and medical personnel on the ground, not only now, but they have long talked about the overcrowded living conditions of refugees, the lack of medical aid as well as the very visible threat of famine, the threat of disease. You know, authorities keep uncovering new mass graves around hospitals like al-Shifa and al-Amal. So they’re saying that the humanitarian situation on the ground in Rafah is disastrous, to say the least, and I think most countries now would agree in saying that an invasion of Rafah – a full invasion of Rafah – would just make the situation entirely worse for them.

JIMMY: Now, I know this is a tough question since you can’t predict the future, but still, what do you think folks should be watching for next?

AGNESE: Yeah, there’s lots of uncertainties in the region at the moment to look out for, especially in the next couple of days. The ceasefire negotiations are certainly one of them, although as I said the [ceasefire] agreement as it currently stands I don’t really see Israel accepting these latest terms. And so, if the latest round of talks does fall through then what we’re looking at is the gradual release of evacuation zones by the Israeli military in Rafah, and so far, as I’ve said, they’ve been limited just to the eastern neighborhoods but what this is going to look like when the Israeli army begins issuing evacuation orders for, you know, the main refugee camp in central Rafah, or the other densely populated areas, that’s something that we’ll have to see, what that looks like. And these of course will go hand in hand with what we’re watching out for the most and that is, just how far Israel is prepared to go with their invasion of this city that is packed with refugees. You know, whether it’s a limited operation or another Khan Yunis-like offensive, we’re going to be looking at displacement beyond the more than 200 days of war that we’ve seen. Israel’s claim is that by going in to Rafah it aims to eliminate the supposed last Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip, but when we’re talking about doing this in a city that is housing up to 1.5 million displaced individuals, including thousands of children, who have very limited alternative options to evacuate to other areas, and no possibility to flee to neighboring Egypt because of the border crossing, you know, what we’re sure to expect is to witness an unprecedented level of bloodshed.

JIMMY: Well, Agnese, we’ll have to pause there for today, but as always, thank you so much for keeping a close eye on things and for keeping us informed. Appreciate it. 

AGNESE: Thanks, Jimmy. 

Nairobi to host South Sudan peace talks

Information compiled by Awais Ahmad

JIMMY: Peace talks between South Sudan’s transitional government and opposition groups will begin in Nairobi on Friday.

Kenya’s mediation will be led by former army commander Lazurus Sumbeiywo. He’s the man who successfully mediated the 2005 Sudan Comprehensive Agreement that eventually led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011. 

The opposition groups held out on signing a 2018 peace agreement aimed at ending a civil war, but have now agreed to join the negotiation table following a series of behind-the-scenes consultations.

Now, over the past decade, violence in South Sudan has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and the internal displacement of over 2 million people. 

Previous peace talks, including the 2023 ones in Rome, came up short. Still, some see the agreement by holdout groups to join the Kenya-led negotiations as a positive first step in the peace process of a region embattled in conflict for over a decade.

Eurovision protests

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: The 68th Eurovision song competition will conclude on Saturday with protests widely expected.

Eurovision will hold its second semi-final round tonight. 

Widespread protests over the involvement of an Israeli singer in the competition are expected, and host city Malmo, Sweden, has heavily bolstered security and policing in the runup to the contest.

Now, Israel has already issued a travel warning to its citizens going to Malmo over the threat of Israelis being targeted by crowds. 

The protest, meanwhile, is expected to draw more than 20,000 attendees

Catalan regional election

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Voters in Spain’s Catalonia region will elect a new regional parliament on Sunday.

Outgoing Catalan President Pere Aragonés, from the pro-independence ERC party called early elections in March after the parliament failed to pass the 2024 budget by one vote. 

According to the latest surveys Salvador Illa is leading the polls. He’s a former health minister and candidate of the regional branch of Spain’s governing socialist party.

Now, despite all surveys projecting Illa’s victory on Sunday, the formation of a new regional government will likely be subjected to negotiations with pro-Independence parties. 

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to step down

Information compiled by Hua Hsieh

JIMMY: After more than 20 years in power, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will step aside on Wednesday.

Lee has named his current deputy and finance minister Lawrence Wong as his successor and asked Singaporeans to “rally behind” Wong and his team. 

Wong was praised for his work as co-head of the government’s coronavirus task force during the pandemic, employing strict restrictions to contain infection rate while also keeping the country’s economy afloat. 

While Wong’s succession doesn’t come as a surprise to many, as he was named “heir apparent” back in 2022, the timing has led some to wonder if there will be an early general election later this year.

Now, the transition is seen as a significant moment.

It not only brings an end to the Lee family rule in Singapore for over half a century, but also marks only the third change of leadership in the country’s history since its independence in 1965. 

All eyes are now on Wong to navigate the country’s delicate geopolitical position amid rising U.S.-China tensions. 

He’ll also work for Singapore to maintain its competitiveness as Asia’s crucial financial hub, and secure domestic support for the long-ruling People’s Action Party.

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts and we’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode includes writing from Factal editors Awais Ahmad, Alex Moore, Irene Villora and Hua Hsieh. Our interview featured editor Agnese Boffano and our podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas. Our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2024 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top photo: Israeli forces operate in the eastern neighborhoods of Rafah in southern Gaza on May 7. (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)