Netanyahu says Israel will enter Rafah despite international concern

Tel Aviv, Israel - The Israeli army will enter the city of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip despite international warnings, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said.

Palestinians perform the first Friday noon prayer of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in front of the ruins of Al-Farouq Mosque on Friday.
Palestinians perform the first Friday noon prayer of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in front of the ruins of Al-Farouq Mosque on Friday.  © MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

"There is international pressure to prevent us from entering Rafah and completing the work," Netanyahu told soldiers on Thursday, according to his office.

He said he has been rejecting this pressure and will continue to do so.

"We will enter Rafah," Netanyahu was quoted as saying. "We will complete the elimination of Hamas' battalions. We will restore security and we will bring total victory for the people of Israel and State of Israel."

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In Rafah, a city on the border with Egypt, an estimated 1.5 million Palestinians are seeking refuge from the fighting in other areas of the Gaza Strip in cramped conditions. Aid organizations are warning of many more civilian casualties if Israel launches a full-scale military operation there.

Israeli media reported that the armed forces plan to move Gazans to "humanitarian islands" in the center of the sealed-off coastal area ahead of a military operation in Rafah.

Their relocation to designated areas will take place in coordination with international actors, army spokesperson Daniel Hagari was quoted as saying by the Times of Israel.

He did not say when the evacuation would take place or when the offensive on the city would begin.

Many countries are criticizing the actions of the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip as grave violations of international law. Meanwhile, Israel has claimed that victory over Hamas is not possible without an operation in Rafah.

Biden and Blinken react to Israeli military operation in Rafah

President Joe Biden, who has supported Israel during the assault, has said an Israeli invasion of Rafah would be a "red line" without credible civilian protection plans in place.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Vienna on Friday that Washington had not seen any plans for a Rafah operation, but reiterated that it wants a "clear and implementable plan" to ensure civilians are "out of harm's way."

The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "expressed deep concern over an imminent Israeli military offensive in Rafah, which could result in a new massacre and further displacement of the Palestinian people in Gaza," the official Wafa news agency reported.

"The presidency underscored the urgency for swift intervention by both the US administration and the international community to avert this military attack, which could add to the already immense suffering of the Palestinian people," Wafa said.

Cover photo: MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

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