Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will not yield to pressure from allies regarding the invasion of Rafah

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will not yield to pressure from allies regarding the invasion of Rafah
  • By Nathan Williams
  • BBC News

Image caption,

Rafah is filled with more than a million Palestinians who have fled other parts of Gaza

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reaffirmed his determination to launch an offensive in Rafah, defying international criticism.

The city is crammed with some 1.5 million Palestinians from other parts of Gaza seeking refuge.

His comments come as the German chancellor, on a Middle East trip, restated his opposition to the plan.

But Mr Netanyahu said “no international pressure will stop Israel” from achieving all of its war aims.

“If we stop the war now before achieving all of its goals, the meaning is that Israel had lost the war and we will not allow this,” Mr Netanyahu told a meeting of his cabinet.

He said Israel must be able to continue its war, with the aims of “eliminating Hamas, releasing all our hostages and ensuring that Gaza will no longer pose a threat against Israel”.

“To do this, we will also operate in Rafah.”

Mr Netanyahu said the offensive in city at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip “will happen” and will take “several weeks”.

He also lashed out at at his critics for, as he put it, forgetting the Hamas attack of 7 October.

Those attacks, in which about 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 were taken hostage from Israel, sparked the current war. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 31,400 have been killed.

The Israeli leader is due to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz later on Sunday, who is expected to repeat his warning against such an offensive.

Speaking to reporters in Jordan, Mr Scholz said a “large number of casualties in such an offensive” could destroy any hope for peace.

Israel’s plans have been heavily criticised by the international community, with the UN and US also warning that a full-scale assault in Rafah could be disastrous.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the UN’s World Health Organization, on Friday appealed to Israel “in the name of humanity” not to launch such an attack on Gaza’s southern-most city.

US President Biden has warned Israel against expanding its invasion in the city, calling it a “red line”.

Nevertheless, Mr Netanyahu’s office formally approved plans for a military operation in Rafah on Friday, adding that the army was preparing for the evacuation of civilians.

Speaking in Jordan, Mr Scholz referenced the need for a truce “that lasts longer”.

Ceasefire talks are expected to resume in Qatar later on Sunday. An Israeli delegation is likely to join the negotiations, but it is not yet clear when it might leave.

Israel has faced mounting criticism for the number of civilian casualties in Gaza, as well as shortages of aid that have fuelled fears of famine.

On Thursday, US Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer called for Israel to hold elections to replace Mr Netanyahu, leading to an an angry push-back from the Israeli leader’s Likud Party.

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