newsIsrael at War

Decision on Rafah op expected within 72 hours

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich says the government will lose its legitimacy if it accepts "humiliating surrender" to Hamas.

Israel Defense Forces activity in the Gaza Strip, April 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israel Defense Forces activity in the Gaza Strip, April 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.

The Israeli government will decide within the next 72 hours whether to launch a military operation to eliminate Hamas’s terror battalions in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, Ynet reported on Tuesday.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi has reportedly approved final plans for the operation, which will be accompanied by the evacuation of the city’s Palestinian civilian population.

IDF forces are amassed along the border waiting for the green light to destroy the four Hamas battalions holed up in the city—Yabna (South), Shaboura (North), Tel Sultan (West) and East Rafah.

U.S. President Joe Biden has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his administration will not support a major offensive against the terrorist group in Rafah. Instead, the White House favors a limited operation aimed at attacking high-value Hamas targets and securing the Gaza-Egypt border.

Biden would consider limiting “certain arms sales to Israel” if the IDF launches a ground operation in the city, the New York Times reported last week.

According to a new Harvard CAPS Harris poll, 72% of Americans believe Israel should proceed with the military offensive, while 28% support Hamas’s continued rule in Gaza.

Respondents were asked: “Should Israel move forward with an operation in Rafah to finish the war with Hamas, doing its best to avoid civilian casualties even though there will be casualties, or should it back off now and allow Hamas to continue running Gaza?”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Saturday that the offensive in Rafah would be suspended if a deal to free abductees held in Gaza is secured.

“The release of the hostages is the top priority for us,” he said, adding that “if there will be a deal, we will suspend the operation.”

Axios reported on Saturday that the deal being discussed includes significant compromises by Israel and that, for the first time, Jerusalem is considering ending the war in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on Sunday that the government will lose its legitimacy if it forgoes the Rafah mission and instead accepts the “humiliating surrender” proposed to Hamas during ongoing ceasefire negotiations.

In a video message, Smotrich urged the premier to order the IDF to immediately enter Rafah “with all its might.”

Agreeing to the terms currently on the table would be tantamount to “a victory for the Nazis at the expense of hundreds of brave IDF soldiers who fell in battle. It would impose a death sentence on the [133 remaining] hostages and, above all, constitute an immediate existential danger to the State of Israel,” said Smotrich.

Despite intense international opposition to a major offensive in Rafah, Israel has repeatedly stated that it is necessary to win the war against Hamas to ensure that the terror group is not able to regroup and threaten Israel again.

“We will complete the elimination of Hamas’s battalions, including in Rafah. No force in the world will stop us…After what [Hamas] has done, it will not do this again. Neither will it exist,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month.

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