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Israel will launch much-anticipated offensive in Rafah, says War Cabinet member Benny Gantz

Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz's remarks coincided with peace talks in Paris involving Qatar, Egypt, the US, and Israel, aimed at easing tensions in Gaza and negotiating prisoner exchanges.

Agencies and A News MIDDLE EAST
Published February 24,2024

Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz threatened on Friday that the army "will eventually launch its much-anticipated offensive" in the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

"The fighting will continue also in the future, deep within the enemy's territory and not along the border," Gantz said in a video message shared on social media. "We will protect the communities (Israeli settlements in the Gaza envelope) with increased forces and we will reach every place where Hamas terrorists are."

He also addressed residents of Israeli towns in the Gaza envelope.

"The decision to return is in your hands. The state will assist all families or communities to make the right decision for them. We will provide you with all the civil services," he said, adding that their security is the government's responsibility.

It is worth noting that the Israeli government has evacuated residents in dozens of settlements and towns in the Gaza envelope to hotels and guest houses across Israel since the beginning of the war on Oct. 7. Many have refused to return while the war is ongoing.

On the northern front, Gantz pointed out that the war "will not end until northern residents can return."

"We are working militarily and politically. Hezbollah has already been pushed from the border, and we are preparing for the day the order is given when we need to expand our activities."

Many residents of northern towns have also been displaced due to border fighting that erupted between the army and resistance factions in Lebanon, led by Hezbollah, since Oct. 8.

Gantz's threats come in conjunction with the start of meetings in Paris, with the participation of Qatar, Egypt, US and Israel, to discuss ways to calm the situation in Gaza and reach an agreement to exchange Palestinian prisoners and Israeli hostages.

Israel's participation in the meetings marks a notable development in the course of the war, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided Feb. 13 not to send a delegation back to Cairo for further talks, rejecting Hamas' demands for a cease-fire, which contributed to a deadlock in negotiations.