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Date set for Rafah offensive – Netanyahu

A coalition partner has threatened to pull support from the prime minister should he fail to attack the Palestinian city

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government has set a date for a major ground operation in Rafah, the last remaining Palestinian shelter in Gaza.

The Israeli leader is under pressure both from close ally the US, which sees the promised offensive as a major threat to civilians, and from members of his own coalition, who demand military action. Some 1.3 million people, most of them displaced from other parts of the Palestinian enclave, are estimated to be crammed into the city, which is located at Gaza’s border with Egypt.

In a short video statement on Monday night, the prime minister said that achieving a victory over the militant group Hamas “requires entry into Rafah and the elimination of the terrorist battalions there. It will happen – there is a date.”

Earlier in the day, Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir issued an ultimatum to Netanyahu, stating that if he “decides to end the war without a broad attack on Rafah in order to defeat Hamas, he will not have a mandate to continue serving as prime minister.”

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West Jerusalem has declared the elimination of Hamas, which organized a deadly incursion into southern Israel last October, as its primary goal. Netanyahu has previously claimed that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) “had eliminated 19 out of 24 of the Hamas battalions”.

Last Sunday, the IDF announced that it was pulling most of its ground forces from the southern part of Gaza. The move will give soldiers rest, in preparation for a future mission in the Rafah area, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said.

Critics of the Israeli tactics say it is a far cry from the precision-targeting of Hamas militants, which is how West Jerusalem portrays it. Over 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in more than six months of hostilities, compared to some 1,200 Israelis killed in the initial Hamas massacre.

Last week, Israel targeted a convoy of the humanitarian group World Central Kitchen in a series of drone strikes, which killed seven aid workers. The attack, which the IDF described as a tragic mistake, was ordered despite the group having closely coordinated its mission with the military.


READ MORE: Most Hamas battalions in Gaza eliminated – Netanyahu

US President Joe Biden threatened last Thursday to reconsider Washington’s support for Israel unless it changes its approach. Israel has since reopened a border crossing to allow more aid into Gaza and reported a surge in the number of trucks loaded with crucial supplies entering the blockaded territory, after claiming for months that it was not preventing the flow of aid.

 

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