Israel will be just ‘weeks away’ from ‘total victory’ over Hamas after Rafah operation, says Netanyahu

Netanyahu pushes back on Biden administration’s criticism of planned Rafah operation, says it will mark beginning of the end of Gaza war.

By David Rosenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s ground operation in the Gaza Strip is on the verge of a major breakthrough that will lead to the end of the current war in a matter of weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview aired on Sunday.

Speaking with CBS News, Netanyahu defended Israel’s planned ground operation in the south Gaza town of Rafah, amid warnings from the Biden administration and pressure the United Nations not to carry out a large-scale military maneuver in the border town.

Rafah remains the last Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip, with the IDF thus far holding off on carrying out a comprehensive operation there due to its proximity to the Egyptian border and the presence of over one million internally-displaced Gaza civilians.

Since the war broke out following the Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7th, the population of Rafah has swelled from approximately 180,000 to over 1.4 million. More than half of all Gazans are currently located in Rafah.

Netanyahu defended Israel’s planned operation in Rafah, saying it would mark the beginning of the end of the current war.

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The Israeli premier emphasized Israel’s goal of destroying the Hamas organization, adding that once the operation in Rafah ahs been completed, “total victory” can be achieved within a matter of weeks.

“Victory is within reach, and you can’t have victory until you eliminate Hamas.”

“Once we begin the Rafah operation, the intense phase of the fighting is weeks away from completion, not months, weeks away from completion.”

“We’ve already destroyed 18 of the 24 Hamas terrorist battalions. Four of them are concentrated in the Rafah. We can’t leave the last Hamas stronghold without taking care of it, obviously, we have to do it.”

“Because total victory is our goal, and total victory is within reach. Not months away, weeks away once we begin the operation.”

Israel, Netanyahu continued, will evacuate Gaza civilians out of Rafah, northward back towards the interior of the Gaza Strip, to ensure their safety during the operation.

When asked what the prospects are for a new hostage deal with Hamas, Netanyahu said it remained unclear whether a new agreement would be reached before the Rafah plan is implemented.

“We’re all working on it. We want it, I want it. Because we want to liberate the remaining hostages, we’ve already brought half of them back.”

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“If we have a deal, it’ll be delayed somewhat. But it’ll happen. If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway. It has to be done.”

Netanyahu castigated Hamas over its “delusional claims,” blaming the terror group’s demands for the failure thus far to reach a deal.

“Hamas started out with just crazy demands. And, you know, it’s- it’s too soon to say if they’re- if they’ve abandoned them, but if they do abandon them and get into what you call the ballpark, they’re not even in the city. They’re in another planet.”