Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said that his government had a plan to evacuate people from the city of Rafah in southern Gaza ahead of a major offensive against Hamas, as allies voiced concern about the ground assault.
Mr. Netanyahu, in excerpts from an interview with ABC News, said that he agreed with U.S. officials that “safe passage” must be provided to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians who have taken shelter in Rafah. He said, without giving specifics, that Israel was working on a “detailed” plan to move Gazans to areas north of Rafah. ABC is set to broadcast the full interview on Sunday morning.
“Victory is within reach,” Mr. Netanyahu said, a phrase he has used several times in the past week. “We are going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah, which is the last bastion,” he said, adding, “We are going to do this while providing safe passage for the civilian population.”
Mr. Netanyahu and his government have faced increasing criticism from allies, including the United States, about a planned ground invasion of Rafah, a city on the border with Egypt that nearly half the population of Gaza has fled to since the war began on Oct. 7 with the Hamas-led attack into Israel.
Aid groups, the secretary general of the United Nations and officials from the Biden administration have all warned that an Israeli attack on Rafah would be disastrous, and that the people there have nowhere to go. So far Egypt has declined to take in Palestinian refugees, concerned both about its own domestic stability and how the displacement could harm the prospects for a future Palestinian state.
About 1 million people have crowded into Rafah, deepening the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Many are exhausted, hungry and running out of options after months of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 27,000, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
Israel has been discussing plans to send troops to Rafah for weeks, despite a growing demand from world leaders that it declare a cease-fire. Mr. Netanyahu last week rejected Hamas’s latest offer for a pause in fighting that would allow hostages held by the militants to be released.
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