In a nod to US pressure, Netanyahu tells Israelis IDF not yet prepared for Rafah operation

Netanyahu vows ‘total victory,’ while pushing off Rafah operation as Biden administration presents alternative ‘proposals’ to major ground incursion.

By David Rosenberg, World Israel News

The IDF’s much-anticipated ground operation into Rafah, the last remaining Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip, is not yet ready, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, alluding to American pressure on Israel to hold back on the incursion.

In a public statement Wednesday, Netanyahu discussed his conversation Monday with President Joe Biden – the first time in over a month the two leaders have spoken.

Netanyahu emphasized the agreement between himself and Biden on the need to destroy the Hamas terror organization, while acknowledging the president’s opposition to Israel’s plan to enter Rafah with the goal of destroying the remaining Hamas battalions.

“Citizens of Israel, here is a brief update on my most recent conversation with US President Joe Biden,” Netanyahu said.

“At the beginning, we agreed that Hamas needs to be eliminated. But during the war, it is no secret, there have been disagreements between us on the best way to achieve this goal.”

“In our latest conversation, I told him it is impossible to complete the victory without the IDF entering Rafah in order to eliminate the remnants of Hamas’s battalions.”

Netanyahu noted that his cabinet has green-lighted the Rafah plan, even as he said it would “take a little time” to prepare for the operation – adding that in the interim, Biden has “asked to present” Israel with alternative plans.

“I want you to know that I have already approved the IDF’s operational plan, and soon we will also approve the plan to evacuate the civilian population from the battle zones.”

“President Biden, whose support I appreciate, asked to present us with the proposals from his side in the humanitarian sphere, and also on other topics.”

“As we are preparing to enter Rafah, and this will take a little time, we are continuing to operate with full force. We are continuing to operate in Khan Yunis, in the camps in the center, in eliminating and capturing senior Hamas officials as we have just done in Shifa, and in eliminating hundreds of terrorists.”

“As I have promised you time and again, we are determined to achieve total victory, and we will achieve it.”

Rafah, located in southern Gaza near the Egyptian border, has swollen since October 7th, following an influx of internally displaced Gazans, with the population rising from roughly 200,000 to 1.5 million.

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Israel has insisted on entering Rafah in order to complete the destruction of Hamas’ military forces, while the Biden administration has pressure Israel not to operate in the city, warning of collateral damage both from combat in Rafah and the stress on civilians who would be forced to leave the city.

The Biden administration has reportedly drawn up an alternative plan, set to be delivered to an Israeli delegation in Washington, under which Israel would seal off the Philadelphi Corridor between Egypt and Gaza, in place of an operation in Rafah.

One American official speaking on condition of anonymity argued that cracking down on Hamas’ cross-border operations would weaken the terror group’s hold over Gaza far more than the planned Rafah operation.