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IDF presents War Cabinet with plans for Rafah civilian evacuation, military operation

Netanyahu vows ‘total victory within weeks’ from start of Rafah operation

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Yoav Galant, and head of the National Unity party Benny Gantz hold a joint press conference at the Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv. Oct. 28, 2023 (Photo: Dana Kopel/POOL)

Israel Defense Forces on Monday presented the plan to Israel's War Cabinet for its military operations in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from the town, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced on Monday.

Rafah is located in the southern Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border and is considered to be one of Hamas’ last remaining strongholds.

In addition, the IDF presented a plan to provide humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip, “in a manner that will prevent the looting that has occurred.”

Israeli media reported that the IDF would start a pilot project, transferring humanitarian aid from Israel directly into the northern Gaza Strip, instead of via Egypt, without any further details.

Northern Gaza has received less aid than other areas in recent months, as intense battles in parts of the enclave have prevented the efficient distribution of goods.

UNRWA Director Philippe Lazzarini claims that the last UNRWA aid trucks reached the area on Jan. 23 and warned that famine may be imminent.

The decision to allow aid into Gaza from Israeli territory was made despite the opinions of several senior security officials, including the Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar and the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Ghasan Alyan, according to Israel's Channel 12 news.

They argue that such a concession should be conditional upon a hostage release deal, however, War Cabinet Ministers Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, as well as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Mossad Chief David Barnea are opposed.

Israeli soldiers operating in Gaza (Photo: IDF)

Despite the IDF presenting its plans for a Rafah operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS in a Monday interview that a hostage deal would delay the operation. “If we have a deal, it’ll be delayed somewhat. But it’ll happen,” he said.

Netanyahu emphasized: “If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway. It has to be done. Because total victory is our goal, and total victory is within reach. Not months away, weeks away once we begin the operation.”

The prime minister again claimed the operation was necessary, amid widespread international condemnation of the plan.

“We’ve already destroyed 18 of the 24 Hamas terrorist battalions, and four of them are concentrated in Rafah. We can’t leave the last Hamas stronghold without taking care of it, obviously, we have to do it,” he said.

Netanyahu reiterated that he and the U.S. Biden administration “are on the same page” regarding the evacuation of Rafah’s civilian population before the Israeli ground operation commences, affirming that Israel has no intention of forcing civilians into the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.

U.S. officials have repeatedly warned Israel against carrying out a large-scale operation in Rafah without a feasible plan to evacuate Gazan civilians from the area.

“We don’t believe that an operation in Rafah should go forward unless there is a clear and executable plan for this and we haven’t seen a plan like that,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on NBC on Monday.

Sullivan also spoke with CNN and confirmed reports that Israel, the U.S., Egypt and Qatar had agreed on an outline for a new hostage deal, expressing hope that a “firm and final agreement” could be reached in the coming days.

However, a senior Hamas official responded negatively to Netanyahu’s comments about an operation in Rafah, telling Reuters that Netanyahu is showing that “he is not concerned about reaching an agreement.”

He also accused Netanyahu of wanting “to pursue negotiation under bombardment and the bloodshed” of Palestinians in Gaza.

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

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