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Blinken warns war cabinet against Rafah operation; Netanyahu: 'No way to defeat Hamas without entering Rafah'

Netanyahu holds firm in stating Israel’s intention to enter Rafah

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with the Israeli War Cabinet, March 22, 2024 (Photo: US State Department)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israel’s war cabinet on Friday in what was reported to be a tense meeting. 

Following recent statements by U.S. President Joe Biden and members of the administration, Blinken warned the war cabinet against the Rafah operation and attempted to pressure Israel against an IDF operation in the southern Gaza town in exchange for a ceasefire deal in the hostage negotiations. 

The state secretary also pressured the cabinet to let Palestinians in Gaza return to the northern Strip. 

Despite this pressure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video statement after the meeting, saying that while Israel understands U.S. concerns, it sees no other way to defeat Hamas without entering Rafah to defeat the last of Hamas’ battalions. 

"I met with Secretary of State Blinken. I told him that I greatly appreciate the fact that for more than five months we have been standing together in the war against Hamas," said Netanyahu. "I also told him that we recognize the need to evacuate the civilian population from the combat zones and – of course – also see to the humanitarian needs, and we are working to this end.”

“I also said that we have no way to defeat Hamas without entering Rafah and eliminating the remnant of the battalions there,” Netanyahu continued. 

According to Ynet News, Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer also led a firm line in the meeting regarding Israel's need to act in Rafah. 

Netanyahu praised the U.S. for its support over the last five months in the war against the Hamas terrorist organization but said Israel was prepared to fight alone, if necessary. 

After the cabinet meeting, Blinken met privately with War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz, as well as with families of hostages. 

The state secretary's trip to Israel marks Blinken's 8th visit to Israel since the start of the war. According to Hebrew media reports, Blinken’s visit was likely tied to bridging the gaps between Israel and Hamas in the ceasefire negotiations.

Blinken asked Netanyahu to allow evacuees from northern Gaza to return, which is one of Hamas’ demands. 

The U.S. diplomat's visit also came just before Mossad Director David Barnea flew to Qatar for another round of meetings in the capital Doha.

Barnea was present in the war cabinet meeting with Blinken but left for Qatar soon after with Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar and IDF representative Nitzan Alon. Barnea had arrived in Doha earlier this week for a first round of meetings.

Next week, an Israeli delegation will leave for Washington to discuss alternatives to a Rafah incursion at the request of Biden. Dermer and Israeli National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi will lead the delegation.  

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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