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Israel to Launch Rafah Offensive Unless Hostages Home by Ramadan

Israel to Launch Rafah Offensive Unless Hostages Home by Ramadan
Palestinians in the remains of the destroyed Al-Huda mosque following Israeli military operations in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Monday, Feb. 12.

Israel will launch a ground offensive in the Rafah area of Gaza unless the hostages still held by Hamas are released by the Ramadan holiday in March, Israeli Minister Without Portfolio Benny Gantz said on Sunday.

Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, pledged that the military would facilitate the evacuation of Gazan civilians in coordination with the US and Egypt in order to minimize casualties. An estimated 1 million Palestinians fleeing the fighting in Gaza have taken refuge in the Rafah area in the southern part of the territory bordering Egypt. Ramadan, a monthlong Muslim holiday, starts in mid-March.

“To those saying the price is too high — I say this very clearly: Hamas has a choice,” Gantz said in a speech Sunday to American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. “They can surrender, release the hostages, and this way, the residents of Gaza can celebrate the holy holiday of Ramadan.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that a ground operation in Rafah is essential for eliminating Hamas’ remaining battalions and that those calling for Israel to stay out of the area are essentially calling for Israel to lose the war.

Gantz pledged to continue fighting until Israel’s goals are achieved, including removing the threat of Hamas, as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon, bringing the remaining around 130 hostages home, and replacing Hamas in Gaza completely. Talks aimed at securing a cease-fire and the release of the remaining hostages have stumbled in recent days as Netanyahu rejected Hamas’s demands as “delusional.”

Read more: Qatar Says Negotiations Over Gaza Cease-Fire ‘Not Positive’

According to recent surveys, Gantz is considered by the public to be the most suitable candidate to become the next prime minister, and his National Unity party is polling far ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud.

Gantz also told the Jewish leaders that he opposes unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, and that following the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas, such a step is not the way to regional stability and peace.

The war with Hamas began when the group infiltrated from Gaza and carried out attacks across southern Israel, leaving about 1,200 people dead and taking more than 250 hostage. According to the Hamas-run health ministry, more than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in the ensuing war. It hasn’t said how many of those are combatants.

The US and EU have designated Hamas a terrorist organization, and Israel has pledged to eliminate the group from the Gaza Strip. The conduct of the war, which apart from the civilian causalities, has also destroyed thousands of homes and triggered shortages of food and water, has led some countries to allege that Israel is committing war crimes.

Those charges are strongly denied by Israeli authorities.

Netanyahu expressed outrage Sunday at remarks by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who said Israel was carrying out genocide in Gaza and compared Israel’s actions to Adolf Hitler’s policy of murdering Jews.

“Comparing Israel to the Nazi Holocaust and Hitler is crossing a red line,” Netanyahu said.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Leon Hugo says:

    Hamas has as its official policy the eradication of Israel but they and the whole world is wailing because Israel is trying to defend itself against this declaration of genocide. There is no logic in this.

  • Jennifer Robinson says:

    I can’t believe that the DM is still reporting that this war was started by Hamas. We are South Africans. We recognise apartheid- this was started long before 7 Oct.
    Bring your reporting inline with the truth.
    This is why I no longer support the DM.

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