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Israel’s Netanyahu says could delay Rafah attack if Hamas comes down to ‘reasonable situation’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Sunday that he might postpone a scheduled ground assault on Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip if Hamas "reaches a reasonable resolution."

Anadolu Agency MIDDLE EAST
Published February 25,2024

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he could delay a planned ground attack in Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip if Hamas "comes down to a reasonable situation."

"If we have a deal, it will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen. If we don't have a deal, we'll do it anyway," Netanyahu told CBS News.

The Israeli army plans to launch a ground attack in Rafah, home to more than 1.4 million residents seeking refuge from war, to defeat what Tel Aviv calls the remaining "Hamas battalions."

Netanyahu said he will hold a security discussion later Sunday to review a dual military plan "to evacuate Palestinians and dismantle those (Hamas) remaining battalions."

"If Hamas goes down from its delusional claims and goes down…we'll have the progress that we all want," he said.

"They're (Hamas) on another planet. But if they come down to a reasonable situation, then yes, we'll have a hostage deal," Netanyahu said.

Israeli negotiators held talks in Paris on Friday with representatives of the US, Egypt and Qatar for a potential hostage swap deal with Hamas.

Hamas is believed to be holding more than 130 Israeli hostages following its cross-border attack on Oct. 7.

The Palestinian group demands an end to Israel's deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip for any hostage swap deal with Israel.

A previous deal in November between Hamas and Tel Aviv saw the release of 81 Israelis and 24 foreigners in exchange for 240 Palestinians, including 71 women and 169 children.

Israel has launched a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7, killing more than 29,690 people and causing mass destruction and shortages of necessities, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed.

The Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85% of the territory's population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.