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Netanyahu vows to invade Rafah regardless of cease-fire deal

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to launch an incursion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are sheltering from the 7-month-long war.

He said Israel would enter Rafah to destroy Hamas’ battalions there “with or without a deal.”

He made the remark amid fresh optimism that new negotiations could lead to a halt in fighting. Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued his tour of the Middle East, arriving in Israel Tuesday to work toward getting more humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Currently, Israel and Hamas are negotiating a cease-fire agreement meant to free hostages and bring some relief to the Palestinians in the besieged enclave.

More than a million displaced civilians have sought refuge in Rafah in southern Gaza; Israel says it is a remaining Hamas stronghold.

President Biden has said the United States will not support a full-scale attack unless Israel has a plan to protect civilians.

At least 34,535 people have been killed and 77,704 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected stopping the war in return for hostage releases, and says an offensive on Rafah is crucial to destroying the militants after their Oct. 7 attacks on Israel triggered the conflict.

His government could be threatened if he agrees to a deal because hard-line Cabinet members have demanded an attack on Rafah.

 

 

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