Netanyahu delays Rafah operation for a second time – report

Israeli FM said, ‘If there will be a (hostage) deal, we will suspend the (Rafah) operation.’

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a delay in the Rafah operation, which despite his denial, is the second time it has been postponed, according to Kan Reshet Bet.

Netanyahu announced on Tuesday morning that the IDF’s mission in Rafah to destroy Hamas infrastructure has been delayed at the same time as Israel awaits Hamas’s response to the newest hostage deal.

According to Kan‘s reporting, this is the second postponement for the IDF’s engaging in Rafah, although Netanyahu’s advisor, Yonatan Urich, called this a “false report.”

On Saturday, Israel Foreign Minister Israel Katz connected the postponement to the latest hostage release proposal.

“The release of the hostages is the top priority for us,” Katz told Channel 12, adding that “if there will be a deal, we will suspend the operation” in the last Hamas bastion in southernmost Gaza.

Meanwhile, the terror commander of Hamas in the Rafah Brigade, Muhammad Shabana, has equipped the four battalions in the city with supplies and weapons, and is recruiting Hamas operatives from the north of the Strip who survived – in an attempt to preserve the terrorist organization’s assets in the city as much as possible.

Over US objection to the Rafah operation, Netanyahu gave initial approval of plans but has delayed giving the final signal to move forward.

In addition, the IDF is poised to begin evacuating Palestinian civilians from the area as soon as the Rafah operation begins.

Early in April, when the Rafah operation seemed imminent, Netanyahu declared that there was a set date when it would begin, which adds credence to the report that the operation has been delayed more than once.

Netanyahu said, “This victory requires entering Rafah and eliminating the terrorist battalions there. This will happen; there is a date.”

The Prime Minister repeatedly emphasized the crucial role a Rafah operation would play in “total victory” for Israel over Hamas.

“We cannot leave a quarter of Hamas’ terrorist battalions intact,” Netanyahu said.

“No one would do that in the case of fighting ISIS [the Islamic State terrorist organization]. You wouldn’t leave a quarter of ISIS intact in a defined territory. You wouldn’t even think about that. And you didn’t,” Netanyahu added, referring to America.

“America finished the job with its allies. We will finish the job here with our brave soldiers,” he concluded.

Also in April, US National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby told reporters that “we have consistently made clear that we don’t support a major ground operation in Rafah.”

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“I would also add that we don’t see any signs that such a major ground operation is imminent, or that these troops are being repositioned” for such an operation, Kirby said.

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