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Ground invasion of Rafah imminent says Netanyahu, caving in to ultra-right pressure

April 9, 2024 at 2:38 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2R) chairs a Cabinet meeting at the Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2023 [MENAHEM KAHANA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel has set a date for a ground assault on Rafah, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced yesterday. The decision comes amid mounting pressure from far-right allies who have warned that Netanyahu’s premiership would be untenable if he fails to launch an attack on the southern Gaza city which is sheltering 1.5 million Palestinians.

“Victory requires entering Rafah and eliminating the terrorist battalions there. This will happen; there is a date,” Netanyahu said in a statement defying his Western allies who are strongly opposed to an invasion of Rafah on the back of killing 33,000 Palestinians, most of whom are women and children.

The Prime Minister’s commitment to a specific date for the Rafah offensive follows criticism from his far-right coalition partners, who lashed out at the Israeli military’s withdrawal of some troops from Gaza on Sunday. Israel pulled its troops from Khan Yunis, the largest city in southern Gaza.

Ultranationalist Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, cautioned, “If the Prime Minister decides to end the war without a large-scale offensive in Rafah to defeat Hamas, he will not have a mandate to continue.”

The US has recently increased public pressure on Netanyahu to refrain from launching a major operation in Rafah, which has become a sanctuary for more than one million people displaced by Israel’s military operation. More than 70 per cent of Gaza’s infrastructure has been destroyed and it is feared that another ground invasion would be catastrophic.

Netanyahu’s popularity has taken a significant hit after six months of war and, as discontent grows both domestically and internationally over his government’s handling of the conflict, he faces calls from far-right leaders to intensify military actions against Hamas.

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