update deskIsrael at War

Netanyahu reiterates: IDF forces will enter Rafah and achieve victory

"There is no victory without entering Rafah; there is no victory without destroying the Hamas battalions there," stated the premier.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations annual mission in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations annual mission in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Israel will defeat Hamas by entering the terrorist stronghold of Rafah in the Gaza Strip and destroying the remaining battalions there, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed Sunday night.

“There is no victory without entering Rafah; there is no victory without destroying the Hamas battalions there,” said Netanyahu in a primetime address, adding that the operation “will take time, but it will happen.”

The premier reiterated that only a combination of military pressure and tough negotiations would bring about the release of the remaining 134 hostages taken to Gaza by Palestinian terrorists on Oct. 7.

“I will do everything possible to bring everyone home. Every time there is some intelligence about them and the operational needs allow it, I authorize missions to bring them out [of Gaza],” he said.

“As Israel showed more openness in the negotiations, Hamas hardened its stance,” stated Netanyahu. He claimed that Hamas is demanding the return of all residents of northern Gaza, including terrorists.

“I’m committed to bringing everyone back, all of our men and women, soldiers, citizens—I will not leave anyone behind. God willing, we will continue to work, continue to fight, and we will win together,” he said.

Netanyahu addressed the nation as the Israel Defense Forces is inching closer to launching a major ground operation targeting the last four Hamas terrorist battalions holed up in Rafah.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, in remarks during a visit to the 98th Division’s headquarters on Sunday, vowed to keep fighting until the IDF eliminates or captures “all terrorists, all over the Gaza Strip.”

The looming incursion has resulted in friction with the United States administration. In addition to some 3,000 terrorists, there are also well over a million Gazans sheltering in Rafah, the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city, causing concerns regarding potential harm to noncombatants.

U.S. President Joe Biden is considering conditioning military aid to Israel if Jerusalem moves forward with its conquest of Rafah, Politico reported earlier this month, citing officials in his administration.

As part of the preparations for the ground invasion, Jerusalem has presented plans to direct a significant number of civilians from Rafah to humanitarian islands in the center of the coastal enclave. Netanyahu has reportedly ordered the purchase of 40,000 tents for evacuees.

Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi in a recent conversation that “we will not accept any more thousands of innocent deaths in Rafah, as in Gaza [City] and Khan Yunis,” according to the Kan News broadcaster.

The highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. offered Halevi an alternative plan focused around the isolation and encirclement of Rafah by Israeli forces, with targeted raids based on intelligence information.

Netanyahu has repeatedly emphasized that telling Israel to refrain from operating in Rafah is equivalent to demanding that it lose the war. Many of the 134 hostages still in the hands of Hamas in Gaza after 176 days are believed to be held in Rafah. Two captives were rescued from the city by Israeli special forces in a daring military operation last month.

Around three-quarters of Jewish Israelis and a majority of Israelis overall support expanding the military operations against Hamas to Rafah, according to polling conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute.

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