Netanyahu sets date for controversial Rafah offensive

Undeterred by widespread pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a Rafah offensive will go ahead and has hinted at a start date for the operation, BBC News reported on April 9. 

UK and US officials have warned that a ground invasion would be a “mistake” and will likely lead to mass civilian casualties. 

British Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron noted that a large number of people living in the southern Gazan city are already refugees and that it is “impossible to see how you can fight a war (in Rafah) amongst these people, there is nowhere for them to go”. 

President Joe Biden said, “A major military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible plan for ensuring the safety and support of more than 1 million people sheltering there.” 

Rafah is the Strip’s most southern city and at the border with Egypt and prior to Israel’s brutal operation in Gaza, which began at the start of October, the city was home to around 300,000 people but given the mass internal displacement caused by incessant Israeli bombardments, Rafah’s population has grown fivefold. 

Although the international community has warned against such an offensive, Netanyahu is also facing pressure from his more extreme cabinet ministers who have claimed that a Rafah onslaught is required. 

READ: Israel backpeddles on cancellation of Rafah meeting

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir warned the Prime Minister that if he “decides to end the war without a broad attack on Rafah to defeat Hamas, he won’t have a mandate to continue serving as prime minister”. 

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said that the country was obliged to increase the pressure on Palestinian militants Hamas and encouraged a “complete victory” over the group. 

Netanyahu has also angered far-right officials as it was announced that the IDF was pulling its troops out of Khan Younis, the biggest city in southern Gaza. 

On April 8, the Israeli Prime Minister said, “Today I received a detailed report on the (ceasefire) talks in Cairo – we are constantly working to achieve our goals, first and foremost the release of all our hostages and achieving a complete victory over Hamas. 

“This victory requires entry into Rafah and the elimination of the terrorist battalions there. It will happen – there is a date.” 

Mr Netanyahu has yet to make the date of the Rafah offensive commencement public. 

BBC News/ NBC News

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