Netanyahu: Date set for IDF offensive in Rafah, essential to victory

“It will happen,” stated the Israeli prime minister.

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Benjamin Netanyahu, Gaza, Hamas
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL.

Israel has set a date for the military offensive against the remaining Hamas terror battalions in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday night.

“We are constantly working to achieve our goals—first and foremost the release of all our hostages and achieving a complete victory over Hamas.
This victory requires entry into Rafah and the elimination of the terrorist battalions there,” the premier said in a video released by his office.

“It will happen; there is a date,” revealed Netanyahu, adding that he had received a “detailed report” on the high-level hostages-for-ceasefire negotiations that ended in Cairo earlier on Monday.

Matthew Miller, the US State Department spokesman, told reporters on Thursday, “To my knowledge, we have not been briefed on that date.”

The Israeli government has repeatedly emphasized that telling Israel to refrain from operating in Rafah is equivalent to demanding that it lose the war. Many of the 133 hostages still in the hands of Hamas after 184 days are believed to be held in Rafah. Two captives were rescued from the city by special forces in a daring military operation last month.

According to Israeli estimates, the final four Hamas battalions—with some 3,000 gunmen—are concentrated in Rafah. Netanyahu has said that all battalions must be defeated to prevent the terror organization from regrouping and reestablishing itself to threaten Israel again.

Around 64% of Israelis support expanding the military operations against Hamas to Rafah, even if it means a clash with the United States, which opposes such a move, according to a poll published last week.

The Biden administration is pressing Israel to refrain from a full-scale ground incursion, claiming the move could lead to a humanitarian “disaster” in Gaza. Instead, the White House favors a limited operation aimed at high-value Hamas targets and securing the border with Egypt.

The administration is seeking to explore alternative plans when a senior Israeli delegation visits Washington, though a date has yet to be set.

“We were hoping to be able to do it this week, but I’m not sure,” White House advisor John Kirby told reporters on Monday. “I’m not expecting one this week.” He claimed Israel had committed not to launch an operation in Rafah prior to holding the delayed meeting in Washington.

The meeting was originally scheduled for late last month but was canceled by Netanyahu at the last minute after the US failed to veto a UN Security Council resolution on March 25, decoupling the demand for a ceasefire from the release of the hostages held by Hamas.

Last week, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and the head of Israel’s National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegbi, held a virtual discussion about the Rafah operation with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other American officials.

With reporting by JNS.