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PM Netanyahu: ‘There is a date’ for Rafah invasion – ‘This will happen’

Israeli officials cool optimistic reports of imminent hostage deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video statement about the war in Gaza, April 8, 2024. (Photo: Screenshot/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a set date for the long-planned invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza during a video briefing on Monday night, amid numerous reports of advancing talks on a hostage deal with Hamas.

“Today I received a detailed report on the talks in Cairo,” Netanyahu said. “We are working constantly to attain our objectives, first and foremost the release of all of our hostages and the achieving of total victory over Hamas.”

He emphasized: “This victory requires entering Rafah and eliminating the terrorist battalions there. This will happen; there is a date.”

Shortly after, the White House said it had not received any information or a date regarding an Israeli operation in Rafah.

Amid increasing protests against the Israeli government in recent days, an Israeli delegation traveled to Cairo, Egypt to negotiate an improved offer in a possible final push to reach a ceasefire before the IDF enters Rafah.

The United States has mounted a pressure campaign to prevent Israel from entering the town, which shelters hundreds of thousands of Gazans who fled the fighting.

The IDF on Sunday announced it had withdrawn almost all of its troops from the Gaza Strip, a move that is meant to prepare the army for the expected incursion into Rafah, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.

The White House stated on Monday that a new offer had been sent to Hamas and all sides were waiting on their response.

Contradicting numerous reports in international and domestic media outlets over the past 48 hours, an Israeli official told the Times of Israel on Monday evening that the two sides aren’t close to a deal yet.

Hamas, the official said, hasn’t yet provided a list of the Palestinian prisoners it wants Israel to release, while Israel also hasn’t said which prisoners it would be ready to free in a potential deal.

Israel would release 900 terrorists from its prisons in the first phase of the deal, including 100 who were serving life sentences, Al Jazeera reported on Monday.

The return of civilians to the northern part of the Gaza Strip is the focus of the current negotiations, the Israeli official told the Times of Israel, noting that the talks made clear that Hamas' leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, felt he was in a strong position.

An Israeli senior official involved in the talks told Army Radio on Monday evening that “very significant conversations” were held in the last several hours.

“The US has taken a significant lead and is exerting heavy pressure on the mediators. The American proposal is far-reaching - it has a very broad mandate. No one can say that the Israeli rope is short. All the elements are there - the movement of IDF forces and the return of Gazans to the north of the Gaza Strip,” he added.

Israel’s political and security cabinet will meet on Tuesday evening to discuss the progressing hostage deal talks and preparations for the Rafah operation and to possibly make a final decision regarding both issues.

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

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