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9 Apr, 2024 13:42

Netanyahu brushes off US concerns over Rafah 

“Nobody can stop” Israel from going after Hamas, the prime minister has declared 
Netanyahu brushes off US concerns over Rafah 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted his country will conduct a military operation in the city of Rafah in Gaza, despite concerns over the civilian death toll it could cause. 

An estimated 1.3 million people, most of them displaced from parts of the Palestinian enclave, are crammed into the settlement on the border with Egypt. Netanyahu is under pressure from a government coalition partner to attack the city.  

“We will complete the elimination of the Hamas battalions, including in Rafah. No force in the world will stop us. Many forces are trying to do this, but it will not help because this enemy, after what he has done, will not do it again,” the prime minister declared on Tuesday during a visit to the Tel HaShomer military base. 

The Jewish state says it is trying to obliterate the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which launched a deadly incursion into Israel last October, triggering the current round of violence.  

Netanyahu said in a video statement on Monday that a date had already been set for an operation in Rafah, but declined to name it. His message followed an ultimatum by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who threatened that Netanyahu would lose his mandate if he failed to end the war in Gaza “without a broad attack on Rafah.” Ben-Gvir heads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, and is part of the coalition government led by Netanyahu’s Likud political force.  

The Israeli leader is also under pressure to change tactics in Gaza from key ally the US, whose arms supplies are crucial for the war effort. President Joe Biden last week demanded “specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers,” warning that the US could reconsider its support. 

The change of tune in Washington followed the killing last week of six aid workers from the World Central Kitchen humanitarian organization. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) targeted the group’s convoy in what it claimed to be a tragic mistake, despite the food supply mission being closely coordinated with the military. Chef Jose Andres, who leads the relief organization, is a prominent public figure in Washington.