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Israel PM says army will go into Gaza's Rafah despite international 'pressure'

Jerusalem, Undefined | March 17, 2024, Sunday @ 16:18 in World » GENERAL | By: AFP | Views: 2156
Israel PM says army will go into Gaza's Rafah despite international 'pressure'

A Palestinian sits beside a child as she reads the Qoran at a camp for displaced people in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 17, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israeli troops would pursue a planned ground offensive in southern Gaza's Rafah that has spurred fears of mass civilian casualties.

"No amount of international pressure will stop us from realising all the goals of the war: eliminating Hamas, releasing all our hostages and ensuring that Gaza will no longer pose a threat against Israel," Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting in a video released by his office.

"To do this, we will also operate in Rafah."

His comments came as talks were expected to resume in Doha towards a truce in Gaza, where Israel has pursued a military campaign against Hamas militants for more than five months. Israeli top officials were set to discuss the "mandate" of the delegation.

Netanyahu was also set to meet on Sunday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was expected to reiterate his warning against a ground offensive in Rafah, where the majority of Gazans have sought refuge from relentless Israeli bombardment.

US President Joe Biden, who has supported Israel during the war, has said an Israeli invasion of Rafah would be a "red line" without credible civilian protection plans in place.

The head of the UN's World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Friday appealed to Israel "in the name of humanity" not to launch an assault on Rafah.

Netanyahu's office said on Friday he had approved the military's plan for an operation in Rafah, though no timeline has been given.

Rafah is the last major population centre in Gaza yet to be subjected to a ground assault in the war, which was triggered by Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel.

The attack resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

Hamas took about 250 Israeli and foreign hostages on October 7, and Israel believes about 130 of those remain in Gaza including 32 presumed dead.

Israel's military campaign has killed at least 31,645 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

© Agence France-Presse

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