update deskIsrael at War

PM: Goal of Rafah op is to return hostages and eliminate Hamas

"Seizing the Rafah Crossing is a very significant step towards destroying the remaining military capabilities of Hamas," said the premier.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 5, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 5, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Hamas’s unilateral ceasefire proposal failed to thwart the Israel Defense Forces’ operation against the terror group’s last bastion of Rafah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday evening.

“Hamas’s proposal was intended to torpedo our forces’ entry into Rafah. It did not happen,” the premier stated in remarks shared by his office.

“Last night, with the approval of the War Cabinet, I gave the order to operate in Rafah. Within hours, our forces raised Israeli flags at the Rafah Crossing and took down the Hamas banners,” said Netanyahu.

“Seizing the Rafah Crossing is a very significant step towards destroying the remaining military capabilities of Hamas, including the elimination of the four terrorist battalions in Rafah, and an important step to damage the governmental capabilities of Hamas,” he continued.

The Israeli leader reiterated that the ceasefire terms proposed by Hamas, which Egypt and Qatar devised without consulting with Jerusalem, are still “very far” from what the country’s War Cabinet deems acceptable.

“Israel will not allow Hamas to restore its evil regime in the Gaza Strip, Israel will not allow it to restore its military capabilities and continue to seek our destruction. Israel cannot accept a proposal that endangers the security of our citizens and the future of our country,” he explained.

The premier said he instructed the delegation to Cairo to “stand firm on the conditions needed for the release of our hostages; continue to stand firm on the essential requirements for guaranteeing Israel’s security.”

Meanwhile, the operation in Rafah will help achieve the destruction of Hamas and the return of the 132 hostages, according to Netanyahu.

“We have already proven with the previous release of the hostages—military pressure on Hamas is a prerequisite for the return of our hostages,” he charged.

‘Meant to present Israel as the refuser’

The IDF began operating in “a targeted manner” against Hamas sites in the eastern part of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday night.

The military announcement came minutes after Israel’s War Cabinet decided unanimously to “continue the operation in Rafah to exert military pressure on Hamas in order to promote the release of our hostages and the other goals of the war,” per a Prime Minister’s Office statement.

IDF ground troops took full control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah Crossing on Tuesday morning as tanks from the 401st Armored Brigade of the 162nd Division were deployed there.

The operation started as Hamas claimed it had accepted a ceasefire deal proposed by mediators, in what senior officials in Jerusalem described as “an exercise by Hamas meant to present Israel as the refuser.”

The United States did not inform Jerusalem in advance of Hamas’s “acceptance” of the hostage deal proposed by Egypt and Qatar, Axios reported on Tuesday, citing three Israeli officials.

Upon reading the Hamas statement, Israeli officials reportedly were surprised to see “many new elements” that were not contained in the previous proposal to which Israel had agreed and was presented to Hamas by the American, Egyptian and Qatari mediators 10 days earlier.

According to one source, CIA director William Burns and other Biden administration officials involved in the talks knew about the new proposal but didn’t inform the Israeli side. The new version was finalized at Doha on Monday morning with Washington’s knowledge.

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