Israeli PM Netanyahu Firm on Claiming Victory-Ceasefire Deal Would Only Stall Offensive in Rafah

Israeli PM Netanyahu Firm on Claiming Victory: ‘Ceasefire Deal Would Only Stall Offensive in Rafah’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Sunday, February 25, that an Israeli military operation in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, might see a delay if a ceasefire agreement spanning weeks is brokered between Israel and Hamas.

He emphasized that decisive victory in the region could be achieved within weeks of commencing the offensive in Rafah, given the concentration of four out of six remaining Hamas battalions there. Consequently, Israel is poised to escalate its offensive against the Hamas militant group into Rafah, situated on the Gaza-Egypt border, despite warnings from humanitarian organizations about potential catastrophes. Rafah currently shelters over half of Gaza’s besieged Palestinian population of 2.3 million and serves as the primary entry point for aid.

Reports confirmed by Israel indicate ongoing discussions about a prospective deal, as per CBS. An Egyptian official disclosed to Egypt’s state-run Al Qahera TV that negotiations for the ceasefire recommenced on Sunday in Qatar, with further talks planned in Cairo to address the release of hostages held in Gaza and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

The Israeli Prime Minister is scheduled to lead a Cabinet meeting this week to endorse operational strategies, which include relocating civilians from Rafah to other parts of Gaza. Netanyahu stated, “Once the Rafah operation commences, the most intense phase of the conflict is merely weeks away from conclusion. Not months,” as reported by CBS. “If no agreement is reached, we will proceed regardless.”

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US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan stated that President Joe Biden had not been briefed on the plan for Rafah and emphasized, “We maintain that this operation should not proceed until or unless there is a plan in place to safeguard civilians,” as reported by NBC.

Ongoing mediation talks in Egypt, facilitated by Qatar as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, have led to the formulation of a ceasefire agreement. This agreement includes the release of at least 40 female and elderly hostages in exchange for approximately 300 Palestinian prisoners, predominantly consisting of women, minors, and older individuals.

According to sources, the proposed six-week pause in hostilities would enable daily aid deliveries to Gaza. Negotiators are facing an unofficial deadline, with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaching around March 10.

However, Hamas asserted that it was not directly involved in the latest proposal put forth by the United States, Egypt, and Qatar. Nevertheless, Hamas indicated that the proposal largely aligns with its previous demand for the initial phase of a truce.

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