'Intense' fighting with Hamas in Rafah 'about to end': Israeli PM Netanyahu

Author:AFP 2024-06-24 04:50 10

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the Israeli military's heavy fighting against Hamas militants in the southern Gaza city of Rafah is nearly over.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AP)

Netanyahu, in his first interview with an Israeli network since the war with Hamas broke out on October 7, said troops would soon be deployed to the northern border with Lebanon but for "defensive purposes."

"The intense phase of the fighting against Hamas is about to end," Netanyahu said in an interview with Israel's pro-Netanyahu Channel 14.

"It doesn't mean that the war is about to end, but the war in its intense phase is about to end in Rafah," he said.

"After the end of the intense phase, we will be able to redeploy some forces to the north, and we will do that. Primarily for defensive purposes but also to bring the (displaced) residents back home," Netanyahu said.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have been displaced from northern Israel which has seen near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Lebanese Hezbollah militants since the war in Gaza began.

Netanyahu said he would not agree to any deal that stipulates an end to the war in Gaza, indicating that he was open to a "partial" deal that would facilitate the return of some hostages still held there, if not all.

"The goal is to return the kidnapped and uproot the Hamas regime in Gaza," he said.

United States officials have raised doubts over Israel's goal of completely destroying Hamas, and on Wednesday Israel's top army spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said Hamas cannot be eliminated.

"To say that we are going to make Hamas disappear is to throw sand in people's eyes," Hagari said.

He said Hamas is an ideology and "we cannot eliminate an ideology".

When asked about the post-war situation in Gaza, Netanyahu said Israel will have a role to play in the near term.

"It's clear military control in the foreseeable future will be ours," he said, before giving his most-detailed comments yet on the post-war situation.

Earlier this month two war cabinet members Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot left the government after Netanyahu failed to deliver a post-war plan for Gaza as demanded by Gantz.

The United States has also pointed to the need for a post-war plan that would help ensure Israel's long-term security.

- 'Civilian administration' -

"We also want to create a civilian administration, if possible with local Palestinians, and maybe with external backing from countries in the region, to manage humanitarian supply and later on civilian affairs in the Strip," the prime minister said.

"At the end of it, there's two things that need to happen: we need ongoing demilitarisation by the IDF (army) and the establishment of a civilian administration."

The Gaza Strip has been gripped by more than eight months of war since Hamas's unprecedented attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants took 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 41 the army says are dead.

Israel's military offensive on Gaza has since killed at least 37,598 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have consistently rallied against Netanyahu and his government, demanding early elections and a deal to return hostages.

But Netanyahu said that if his government falls, "a left-wing government will be established here, which will do something immediately: establish a Palestinian state that is a Palestinian terrorist state that will endanger our existence."

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Title:'Intense' fighting with Hamas in Rafah 'about to end': Israeli PM Netanyahu

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