Netanyahu reiterates Rafah invasion threats as IDF scales down forces in Gaza

Six months into war, PM asserts Israel 'step away from victory' and vows Gaza will not pose a threat anymore; Israeli delegation set for Cairo talks; 'Hamas blocking deal,' Netanyahu says

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated his threats that Israel would invade the southern Gaza Strip of Rafah to clear it out of Hamas terrorists.
"We are determined to achieve total victory in the war, return all our captives, complete the elimination of Hamas throughout the Gaza Strip, including Rafah, and to ensure Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel," Netanyahu said at the opening of the Weekly Cabinet meeting.
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 בנימין נתניהו בפתח ישיבת הממשלה ביום ב-184 למלחמה
 בנימין נתניהו בפתח ישיבת הממשלה ביום ב-184 למלחמה
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(Photo: GPO)
As the war marks its six-month anniversary, Netanyahu listed Israel's "significant achievements," including dismantling "19 out of 24 Hamas battalions, including senior commanders" and clearing terrorist concentrations at Gaza City's Al Shifa Hospital and other terrorist command centers. "We are a step away from victory, but the toll taken from us is painful and heart-wrenching," he said.
Meanwhile, the 98th Division, which has been stationed in the southern Gaza Strip in recent months, particularly in the Khan Younis area, has rotated out of the territory, the IDF said earlier on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the 7th Armored Brigade began its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip Saturday night, after engaging in combat in the Palestinian enclave since the start of ground operations at the end of October.
For the past three months, the 7th Armored Brigade operated in Khan Younis under the 98th Division, and before that, it was stationed in northern and central Gaza under the 36th Division. This marks a further reduction of IDF forces in Gaza. Currently, the Nahal Brigade, which holds Road 749 bisecting the enclave, remains the only unit still operating there.
Meanwhile, Mossad Director David Barnea, Shin Bet head Ronen Bar and Major General (ret.) Nitzan Alon will travel to Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday for hostage negotiation talks, as sanctioned by the War Cabinet. The forum also expanded the negotiation team's mandate, following a request from U.S. President Joe Biden.
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דודי ברנע ורונן בר
דודי ברנע ורונן בר
Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar and Mossad chief David Barnea
(Photo: GPO)
At the Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said, "We will not forget the horrific crimes of the Hamas monsters still holding our brothers and sisters captive. To date, we have returned 123 hostages, and we are committed to bringing them all home.
I have made it clear to the international community that there will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages. It simply won't happen, and I welcome President Biden's statement yesterday reiterating this stance.
"Israel is not the one blocking a deal; Hamas is. Its extreme demands are designed to end the war while maintaining its rule, ensuring its survival and rehabilitation. Succumbing to Hamas' demands would enable it to repeat the crimes of October 7 over and over.
"Hamas hopes that internal and external pressure will force Israel to capitulate. That won’t happen. Israel will not surrender. Our war has revealed to the world what Israel had always known; Iran is behind the attack against us.
“Since October 7, we have been attacked on multiple fronts by Iran's proxies. Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, militias in Iraq and Syria, among other attacks. Anyone who harms us or plans to harm us, we will strike back. Israel is prepared for any attempt, from anywhere.”
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