Netanyahu Says He Won’t Bow to Pressure to Call Off Rafah Invasion

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel insisted on Saturday that Israel wouldn’t bow to worldwide stress to name off its plan for a floor invasion of Rafah, the southernmost metropolis in Gaza that’s now filled with greater than 1,000,000 Palestinians.

Many of the folks now in Rafah are displaced and dwelling in faculties, tents or the properties of associates and kin, a part of a determined seek for any protected refuge from Israel’s navy marketing campaign, which has dragged on for greater than 4 months. Their lives are a every day wrestle to discover sufficient meals and water to survive.

“Those who want to prevent us from operating in Rafah are basically telling us: Lose the war,” Mr. Netanyahu mentioned at a information convention in Jerusalem on Saturday night. “It’s true that there’s a lot of opposition abroad, but this is exactly the moment that we need to say that we won’t be doing a half or a third of the job.”

About the identical time as Mr. Netanyahu addressed the information convention, hundreds of anti-government protesters stuffed a central thoroughfare in Tel Aviv — the biggest protest towards the prime minister in months. They stuffed the identical avenue the place mass protests towards Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to weaken the nation’s judiciary riled the nation earlier than the beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Calls for a direct election rose above a din of air horns. Protesters lit a crimson flare in the course of a drum circle whereas others wielding flags stared down half a dozen cops on horseback.

“The people need to rise up, and the government needs to go,” mentioned one protester, Yuval Lerner, 57. Mr. Lerner mentioned that even earlier than the conflict, he misplaced confidence that the federal government has the nation’s finest curiosity at coronary heart, however “Oct. 7 proved it,” he mentioned.

Mr. Netanyahu’s feedback additionally got here as world leaders and worldwide organizations have been elevating alarms that an invasion of Rafah would solely compound the humanitarian catastrophe for displaced Palestinians.

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s high diplomat, reiterated on Saturday his enchantment to Israel to chorus from launching a navy operation in Rafah “that would worsen an already catastrophic humanitarian situation.”

Mr. Netanyahu, nonetheless, mentioned Palestinians can be permitted to go away Rafah and contended that there was “a lot of space” north of town the place civilians may resettle.

The Israeli chief performed down the possibilities of a fast breakthrough in oblique talks with Hamas on a cease-fire in change for a hostage launch. He mentioned that Hamas — the armed group that lengthy managed Gaza and which led the Oct. 7 assault on Israel that began the conflict — was making “ludicrous” calls for in these negotiations.

Explaining his resolution to cease Israeli officers from taking part in follow-up negotiations in Cairo earlier this week, the prime minister went on to say Hamas had not compromised on its calls for “one nanometer.”

“There’s nothing to do until we see a change,” he added.

Earlier on Saturday, Ismail Haniyeh, the chief of Hamas’s political wing, issued a press release accusing Israel of “procrastinating” in addressing Hamas’s calls for. Hamas has been calling for a complete cease-fire, the reconstruction of Gaza, the top of Israel’s blockade of the territory and the discharge of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

President Biden advised a information convention on Friday that he didn’t count on Israel to invade Rafah whereas efforts to free the hostages have been ongoing.

South Africa this week requested the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ high judicial physique, to intervene to cease Israel’s deliberate advance into Rafah. But on Friday, the court docket declined to difficulty new constraints aimed toward stopping such an incursion.

Instead, it mentioned the “perilous situation” in Gaza, together with in Rafah, required Israel to abide by its earlier ruling final month, which included taking “all measures within its power” to stop the crime of genocide by its forces.

Mr. Netanyahu has known as the cost that Israel has engaged in genocide “false” and “outrageous.”

Israeli officers have insisted that an incursion into Rafah is required to destroy tunnels between Egypt and Gaza and to attempt to root out Palestinian militants there. But the Israelis haven’t but introduced a plan to evacuate civilians because the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, has demanded.

Many civilians sheltering in Rafah have already moved a number of instances as Israel’s navy marketing campaign has pushed farther south, and a few have mentioned their properties north of town have been destroyed and so they have grown uninterested in repeatedly relocating.

“If they want to come here — amid all these people — there will be massacres,” mentioned Khalil el-Halabi, 70, one of many many displaced Palestinians from northern Gaza who’ve sought shelter in Rafah.

Some displaced Palestinians have now moved again north towards Deir al Balah in central Gaza, according to the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator.

People in Rafah have grown so determined for meals that they’re stopping assist vehicles and consuming what they handle to get on the spot, in accordance to the United Nations.

Ahmad al-Ghazaly, 26, one other displaced Palestinian in Rafah, mentioned he was sheltering in a tent together with his dad and mom, each of whom he mentioned had power sicknesses. He mentioned that he hoped to get permits for each of them to go away for Egypt by way of the Rafah border crossing, however that the method had develop into much more troublesome and expensive in current weeks.

“It’s been four months in which we’ve barely slept, eaten, showered, and there’s constant bombardment,” Mr. al-Ghazaly mentioned. “We’re living in conditions, I’m sorry to say, that are barely better than those of animals.”

As the Israeli invasion of Rafah looms, neighboring Egypt has grown more and more involved that an Israeli operation within the metropolis may ship Palestinian refugees streaming into its territory. Egypt has warned Israel of “dire consequences” ought to Israeli forces embark on a floor operation in Rafah.

But Israel’s protection minister, Yoav Gallant, tried to assuage these considerations on Friday, saying Israel had “no intention of evacuating Palestinian civilians to Egypt.”

Israel and Egypt have had a decades-long peace treaty that may be a cornerstone of stability within the Middle East.

In current weeks, Egypt has bolstered the border with Gaza in what some analysts have seen as a response to fears of an inflow of Palestinians pouring in. A contractor and an engineer advised The New York Times lately that they’d obtained a authorities fee to construct a concrete wall 5 meters excessive (about 16 ft) to shut off a five-kilometer-square plot of land on the Egyptian facet of the Gaza border in Rafah.

Speaking on the Munich Security Conference, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry of Egypt mentioned his nation strongly opposed any try to expel Palestinians to Egyptian territory and didn’t intend to present “safe areas” for Palestinian refugees. But if such a scenario arose, he added, the Egyptian authorities would act with “the humanity that is necessary” and supply “support to innocent civilians.”

Adam Sella contributed reporting from Tel Aviv.

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