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Israel to assault Rafah even if ceasefire agreed: Netanyahu

Israel could still assault Rafah even if Gaza ceasefire agreed with Hamas: Netanyahu
3 min read
26 February, 2024
Israel is still planning an offensive of Rafah, now home to around 1.5 million Palestinians, even if a ceasefire is agreed, PM Netahyahu has said.
Netanyahu is still planning a military assault on densely packed Gaza [Getty]

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the assault on Rafah would still take place even if a ceasefire for Gaza was agreed on with Hamas.

Netanyahu spoke with CBS about the brewing offensive on Rafah, as the world called on Israel to halt its military plans for the border city which would endanger the lives of 1.4 million Palestinians living there - many of whom were displaced from the north and central parts of the enclave.

It comes as ceasefire talks were being held in Paris and Cairo, which could ease the humanitarian situation in Gaza that hangs in the shadow of famine.

"Yeah, well, victory is within reach, and you can't have victory until you eliminate Hamas," he told the CBS reporter, who asked him if a six-week truce could be the first step to a broader peace deal. 

"We can't leave a quarter of Hamas battalions in Rafah and say, well, that's, that's fine, they'll be there. It's like saying a quarter of ISIS will be left and with a defined territory because you know, they will reconstitute themselves immediately."

Netanyahu reiterated his war aims of "destroying Hamas, releasing the hostages, and ensuring that Gaza doesn't pose a threat", which would further extinguish hopes of a ceasefire.

He previously rejected a Hamas truce proposal which would see the release of the hostages in exchange for Israel freeing Palestinian detainees, enacting an immediate ceasefire, and withdrawing troops from Gaza.

"So total victory is important to achieve the war goal of destroying Hamas, releasing the hostages, and ensuring that Gaza doesn't pose a threat. But I think also is essential for any future peaceful Middle East," he said.

"That gets us a real, real distance towards the completion of our victory, and that- we're not going to give it up. If we have a deal, it'll be delayed somewhat. But it'll happen. If we don't have a deal, we'll do it anyway.

"It has to be done. Because total victory is our goal, and total victory is within reach. Not months away, weeks away once we begin the operation."

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Aid agencies have sounded the alarm over the situation in Gaza with extreme suffering in packed Rafah and an even grimmer situation in the north where cases of starvation have been reported.

Even allies such as the US and UK have warned Israel against an assault on Rafah that might endanger civilians, while Egypt fears hundreds of thousands of Palestinians could be pushed into its territory

Israel's military has reportedly presented a plan to the military council on an offensive on Rafah which would include expelling civilians from "fighting areas".

Israel's war on Gaza has seen close to 30,000 Palestinians killed, the vast majority civilians, while the entire enclave has been laid to waste.