newsIsrael at War

Gantz: IDF will enter Rafah unless hostages returned before Ramadan

"They can surrender, release the hostages, and this way, the citizens of Gaza can celebrate the holy holiday of Ramadan," said the War Cabinet member.

Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz speaks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz speaks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

If the remaining hostages held by Hamas in Gaza are not freed before Ramadan, which starts in approximately three weeks, the Israel Defense Forces campaign against the terror group will continue, including in Rafah, War Cabinet member Benny Gantz pledged on Sunday.

“I say this very clearly: Hamas has a choice. They can surrender, release the hostages, and this way, the citizens of Gaza can celebrate the holy holiday of Ramadan,” Gantz told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at their annual gathering in Jerusalem.

An Israeli triumph over Hamas consists of four elements, the former IDF chief of staff told attendees: military victory, returning the hostages, replacing Gaza’s terror rulers through a diplomatic settlement and restoring the Jewish state’s national resilience.

“Let me be clear; we are operating in Gaza not out of revenge for Oct. 7 but out of a clear conviction to secure our future—the future of Israel’s next generations. We will continue fighting, in any scenario, until we achieve our goals,” Gantz emphasized.

There are still 134 hostages remaining in Hamas captivity, 32 of whom are confirmed dead. Hamas terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and wounded thousands more during the terror group’s Oct. 7 murder spree in the northwestern Negev.

Two Israeli hostages, Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, were rescued in a daring military operation in Rafah on Feb. 11.

On Saturday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that those urging Jerusalem to forgo an operation in Rafah were effectively calling for the Jewish state to lose the war.

Netanyahu’s comments came after U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday demanded a ceasefire to secure the release of hostages in Gaza, claiming that a deal “has to” go through before Israel enters Rafah.

A potential large-scale IDF invasion of Rafah will be carried out in “a coordinated manner, facilitating the evacuation of civilians in dialogue with our American and Egyptian partners to minimize civilian casualties,” Gantz vowed on Sunday.

Gantz also rejected reported U.S. pressure on the Israeli government to consent to the unilateral establishment of a Palestinian state, stressing that “after Oct. 7, the pathway to regional stability and peace is not through one-sided actions.”

Earlier on Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet approved a declaration rejecting such moves. According to Ynet, Netanyahu coordinated the text with Gantz and fellow National Unity Party Cabinet Minister Gideon Sa’ar.

Peace will come “through facilitating long-term processes that will consolidate a regional architecture facing the Iranian axis of terror,” Gantz said.

“The day the textbooks of Gaza and Judea and Samaria will look like those of our Emirati friends will be the day we’ll know we share a brighter future in the Middle East,” he said.

On the northern front with Lebanon, the Israeli military will fulfill its objectives and drive the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group “away from our towns,” Gantz added.

According to Gantz, a victory over Hamas and Hezbollah “goes hand in hand with our will to expand the circle of peace and form a united regional axis” to confront Tehran’s genocidal nuclear ambitions while normalizing ties with Saudi Arabia.

Tehran is being less than forthright with the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding its nuclear program, the U.N. watchdog said last week, responding to comments by Ali Akbar Salehi, former head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, to the effect that the Islamic Republic has all the pieces for a nuclear weapon “in our hands.”

“A ray of light during these hours of darkness has been the Israeli-American alliance that has proven itself stronger than ever,” Gantz told the audience in Jerusalem on Sunday.

“Our alliance has been tested three times before—in ’48, ’73 and 2023. Never will we forget President Biden’s friendship during the days following Oct. 7, the military backing, the diplomatic support and his clear message to our enemies,” he stated.

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