WASHINGTON, Feb 25 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in interview CBS television channel said that a military operation in the city of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip is inevitable, and the pause in hostilities discussed at the negotiations can only delay it.
The US is urging Israelis not to enter Rafah, which has become the main center for refugees from the rest of the enclave, without a “credible” plan to ensure the safety of the million Palestinians now living there.
“If we have a deal, it (the operation – ed.) will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen anyway. If there is no deal, we will still carry it out,” Netanyahu said.
According to him, with the start of the operation in Rafah, Israel will be “weeks, not months” away from complete victory over the Hamas movement ruling in the Gaza Strip. He noted that after the interview he was going to a meeting at the general headquarters, where a “double plan” would be discussed – the evacuation of the civilian population from Rafah and military operations against Hamas.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan previously confirmed reports of progress at negotiations in Paris, where “the basic contours of a deal to release hostages in exchange for a temporary truce” were determined, and expressed hope for reaching final agreements in the coming days.
The White House previously said that the success of the negotiations could suspend hostilities in the Gaza Strip for up to a month and a half. The US remains opposed to a permanent ceasefire.
On October 7, 2023, Israel was subjected to an unprecedented-scale rocket attack from the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, announced by the military wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement. After this, the organization’s fighters entered the border areas in southern Israel, where they opened fire on both military and civilians, and also took more than 200 hostages. In Israel, according to the latest data from the authorities, about 1.2 thousand people were killed, this number includes civilians, soldiers, foreign citizens and workers, and it was also reported that more than 5 thousand were injured.
In response, the Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Iron Swords against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Within a few days, the Israeli military took control of all populated areas near the border with Gaza and began carrying out air strikes on targets, including civilians, in the strip. Israel also announced a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip: the supply of water, food, electricity, medicine, and fuel was stopped. At the end of October, the ground phase of the Israeli operation in the enclave began.
The death toll from Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip exceeded 29 thousand, and more than 70 thousand people were injured, the Gaza Ministry of Health reported.
Hamas claimed that there were about 200-250 hostages in the Gaza Strip. By this time, according to Israeli official data, 112 hostages had been released, more than 30 were considered dead and about 100 were still being held in the Palestinian enclave.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called on the parties to stop hostilities. According to the position of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the settlement of the Middle East crisis is possible only on the basis of a “two-state” formula approved by the UN Security Council, which provides for the creation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict, related to the territorial interests of the parties, has been a source of tension and fighting in the region for many decades. A UN decision with the active role of the USSR in 1947 determined the creation of two states – Israel and Palestine, but only the Israeli one was created.