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Netanyahu approves Rafah attack plans despite international warnings

"We have approved the operational plans to invade Rafah," the Israeli premier said at a news conference before undergoing hernia surgery on Sunday evening.

Anadolu Agency MIDDLE EAST
Published March 31,2024
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (File Photo)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday evening approved operational plans for an attack on Rafah city in the southernmost Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt.

Netanyahu claims Rafah is the "last stronghold of Hamas" and insists on attacking it despite escalating regional and international warnings of catastrophic consequences for assaulting the city, which is home to approximately 1.4 million Palestinians, the majority of whom have been displaced in the latest six months of intensified Israeli army bombardments.

"We have approved the operational plans to invade Rafah," the Israeli premier said at a news conference before undergoing hernia surgery on Sunday evening.

He claimed that "the information obtained by our fighters in Al-Shifa (hospital) helps us identify the location of the 'militants'."

For the 15th day, the Israeli army continues its operations in the Al-Shifa Medical Complex and its surroundings in western Gaza City, which, according to the Gaza government's Media Office, have resulted in the deaths of over 400 Palestinians and the destruction and burning of 1,050 homes in the complex's vicinity.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, now insisted that "We will enter Rafah and eliminate Hamas, and without that, there is no victory.

"The government is working to evacuate residents before invading Rafah (...) and we will enter the city despite the opposition of US President (Joe) Biden."

Regarding the accusations against him in the case of Israeli hostages in Gaza, the Israeli prime minister claimed that "anyone who says that I do not do everything to release the detainees is wrong and misleading."

Regarding calls from the opposition for early elections, he said such a demand would "mean paralyzing the state and postponing the opportunity to conclude a (hostage swap) deal for (another) six months."

The Israeli opposition accuses Netanyahu of pursuing policies that serve his personal political goals, particularly his intention to remain in power while failing to achieve the war's objectives, particularly ending Hamas and returning hostages from Gaza.

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister's Office announced that he would have hernia surgery under general anaesthesia on Sunday evening and that his deputy, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, would temporarily take over his duties.

Tel Aviv currently holds at least 9,100 Palestinian prisoners in its jails, while there are an estimated 134 Israeli hostages in Gaza. Hamas has announced the death of 70 of them in random Israeli airstrikes.

Israel has waged a deadly military offensive on the Gaza Strip since an Oct. 7 cross-border attack by Hamas which killed some 1,200 people.

Nearly 32,800 Palestinians have since been killed and 75,300 others injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities. Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip, leaving its population, particularly residents of northern Gaza, on the verge of starvation.

The Israeli war has pushed 85% of Gaza'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 (ICJ), which on Thursday asked Israel to do more to prevent famine in Gaza.