Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday those warning Israel against entering Rafah “are basically saying lose the war.”
Israel ordered evacuations of Rafah last week in anticipation of an invasion of the densely populated city, which is home to one of Gaza’s largest refugee camps for Palestinians fleeing the war.
When asked where the estimated 1.4 million people staying in Rafah are supposed to go amid the evacuation orders, Netanyahu said on ABC’s “This Week” that they are working to get civilians out of the way but that Israel needed to enter Rafah.
“You know, the areas that we’ve cleared north of Rafah, plenty of areas there. But, we are working out a detailed plan to do so. And that’s what we’ve done up to now. We’re not, we’re not cavalier about this, this is part of our war effort to get civilians out of harm’s way. It’s part of Hamas’s effort to keep them in harm’s way,” he said in an interview airing Sunday.
“But we’ve so far succeeded, and we’re going to succeed again,” he continued. “Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying lose the war, keep Hamas there. And Hamas has promised to do the October 7th massacre over and over and over again.”
Israel struck Rafah last week after the U.S. warned it against expanding the war to the overcrowded city. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said last week that expanding into Rafah “with no planning and little thought in an area where there is sheltering of a million people would be a disaster.”
On Saturday, Israeli airstrikes killed at least 31 people in Rafah, which is located near the border with Egypt. The Associated Press reported that Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry warned that a ground offensive in Rafah would have “disastrous consequences.”
President Biden said last week that Israel’s response in Gaza was “over the top” — a comment that Netanyahu dismissed on Sunday. Netanyahu said he believed Israel was doing the “right thing” in Gaza, pointing to the Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that left about 1,200 people dead.
According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians, more than 27,000 have been killed in Gaza since the onset of the war, The Associated Press reported.
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