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Netanyahu hits back against critics; ‘tragic incident’ in Rafah under investigation

Pressure on Israel 'only strengthens Sinwar’s resolve'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a 40 signatures debate, at the plenum hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on May 27, 2024 (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a sweeping attack against his critics in a speech in front of the Israeli Knesset on Monday, defending his conduct during the hostage deal negotiations and hitting back at international criticism.

Both international and domestic pressure on the Israeli government “only strengthens [Hamas leader] Sinwar’s resolve, leading him to demand terms that would endanger Israel’s very existence – terms we cannot accept,” he began.

The most recent flashpoint of international condemnation was regarding an incident in Rafah on Sunday evening which, according to Hamas, constituted an Israeli “massacre” that resulted in about 40 Palestinian civilian deaths.

Israel Defense Forces announced it eliminated two senior Hamas commanders during the operation, while also vowing to investigate the strike.

“Tragically, despite our immense efforts to avoid harming non-combatants, an incident occurred yesterday. We are investigating it thoroughly and will learn from it, as is our policy and longstanding conduct.”

“For us, any non-combatant hurt is a tragedy; for Hamas, it is a strategy,” Netanyahu emphasized.

The Israeli prime minister also addressed domestic criticism of his conduct during the hostage deal negotiations, including recent allegations by Israel’s negotiation team leader who claimed Netanyahu was hampering the effort by severely limiting the team’s mandate.

Several hostage families have accused Netanyahu of not making a serious effort to reach a deal, alleging that he is prolonging the war to remain in power.

“The repeated false claims that we are the obstacle are not only harmful to the families – that much is obvious, and I sympathize with them. But it goes beyond that: it delays the release of the hostages and undermines negotiations. Instead of focusing pressure on Sinwar, who holds the hostages in his dungeons, the pressure is misdirected at the Israeli government,” Netanyahu stated in response.

“Israel is constantly asked to make concession after concession. So why would Sinwar feel any pressure? He sits in his bunker, rubbing his hands in satisfaction, delighted that others are doing the work for him. The pressure should be directed at Hamas,” he added.

Mere hours before Netanyahu’s speech, Knesset Member and observing member of the War Cabinet, Gadi Eisenkot (National Unity party), argued that Israel should pause its military operations in Gaza as long as necessary to reach a deal with Hamas.

“Just as we stopped for a truce last time, we can suspend the fighting and return to it for as long as it takes to achieve the goals of the war,” Eisenkot told the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, according to Israeli media reports.

Netanyahu resolutely rejected Eisenkot’s position: “Let me be clear: I will not yield or surrender. I will not end the war before achieving all our goals. Our fallen heroes will not have died in vain. If we surrender, the massacres, rapes, and atrocities of October 7th will be repeated, just as Hamas has promised.”

“If we surrender, we will not bring back all our hostages. If we surrender, we will deliver a great victory to terrorism, to Iran, and to the entire axis of evil – those who wish us dead. Those who say they cannot withstand the pressure should raise a black flag.”

“No, they should wave a white flag and surrender. I will not. I will continue the fight until we raise the flag of victory,” the prime minister vowed.

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

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