Israel Moving Ahead With Plan To Attack Rafah: ’There Is A Date,’ Netanyahu Says

Published 1 month ago
By Forbes | Mary Whitfill Roeloffs
Destruction in Khan Yunis after Israel’s withdrawal
Some Palestinian residents start to return to their homes after Israel's withdrawal leaving behind a huge destruction in Khan Yunis, Gaza on April 07, 2024. Weeks of Israeli attacks turned the city's buildings into piles of rubble and ash . (Photo by Jehad Alshrafi/Anadolu via Getty Images)


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israel will be moving forward with a planned attack on the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip despite pleas from the United States and other countries concerned for the 1 million civilians sheltering there.


Netanyahu on Monday said a victory against the militant group Hamas, which attacked Israel in October, “requires entry into Rafah and the elimination of the terrorist battalions there. It will happen – there is a date.”

The prime minister has for months insisted attacks in Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza strip, are necessary to eliminate Hamas and win the six-month war, but Western allies have warned against attacking the city that holds more than 1 million civilian refugees who have been driven from their homes.


Netanyahu’s announcement follows backlash from his far-right supporters after Israel withdrew most of its troops from southern Gaza on Sunday, a decision met with scrutiny and a threat from security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir warning that if he didn’t launch a “large-scale offensive” in Rafah, Netanyahu “will not have a mandate to continue” as prime minister.

The United States has put increasing pressure on Netanyahu to not authorize a major military strike in Rafah—President Joe Biden weeks ago said to do so would be a “mistake” and Thursday said continued U.S. support for the war in Gaza would depend on how well Israel worked to protect civilians and aid workers.

Biden told Netanyahu that he needed to take “measurable” steps to ease “civilian harm, humanitarian suffering and the safety of aid workers” or risk losing the support of the United States, Israel’s closest ally.

About two-thirds of the entire population of the Gaza Strip (some 1.5 million people) was sheltering in Gaza as of two weeks ago with no safe way to evacuate, Deepmala Mahl of the humanitarian organization CARE International told ABC News while warning of a “terrible loss of life” if Israel’s military invades.



Netanyahu’s announcement comes one day after the six-month anniversary of an attack on Israel by Hamas that saw the group kill about 1,200 Israelis and take 253 hostages on Oct. 7. Twenty days later, Israel responded by carrying out attacks in Gaza that the territory’s health ministry says have killed more than 33,000 people. In that time, more than 2.3 million residents of Gaza have been displaced, more than half of whom sought shelter in Rafah. Military operations in Rafah have been increasingly criticized by foreign governments and international organizations. The Norwegian Refugee Council said an attack would “turn Rafah into a zone of bloodshed and destruction” and CARE International warned against “devastating consequences for civilians.” In addition to Biden’s concerns on behalf of the United States, more than two dozen countries in the European Union (all but Hungry) last month warned against what they called a “catastrophic” offensive plan in Rafah.


Continued negotiations in Cairo. Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz on Monday told Israel’s Army Radio that the country has reached a “critical point” in its negotiations with Hamas over the safe return of 133 hostages still held in Gaza by the militant group. “I am more optimistic than I was,” he reportedly said, “but we can’t promise things when dealing with Hamas.” Netanyahu’s statement Monday also referenced the talks in Cairo, saying “we are working all the time to achieve our goals, primarily the release of all our hostages and achieving a complete victory over Hamas.”