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Netanyahu says 'intense phase' of Rafah fighting nears end

June 24, 2024

Israel's prime minister says the war will still go on, with some forces possibly moving from Gaza toward the north as the conflict escalates with Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Netanyahu says winding down the operation in Rafah will allow Israel to redeploy its forces to the northImage: Ohad Zwigenberg/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a lengthy television interview on Sunday that the intense fighting in Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah was coming to an end.

"The intense phase of the fighting against Hamas is about to end," Netanyahu told Israel's Channel 14, without giving a clear timeline.

He added, however, that "It doesn't mean that the war is about to end."

How much danger does Hamas still pose to Israel?

Netanyahu eyes moving forces north

According to Netanyahu, fewer troops would be needed in Gaza, freeing up forces to fight the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement based in Lebanon.

"We will have the possibility of transferring some of our forces north, and we will do that," he told Channel 14.

"First and foremost, for defense," he said, adding that the operation would allow tens of thousands of displaced Israelis to return home..

Iranian-backed Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after Hamas-led cross-border terror attack on October 7 that sparked the war in Gaza.

Israel and Hezbollah have exchanged fire almost daily since then. The fighting has escalated in recent weeks, raising fears of an all-out war.

Netanyahu said he hoped a diplomatic solution could be found for the crisis, but vowed to solve the problem "in a different way" if necessary. "We can fight on several fronts and we are prepared to do that," he said.

Post-war scenarios for Gaza

Netanyahu also said he would not agree to any deal that included a permanent cease-fire, one of Hamas' key demands in stalled efforts to broker a truce.

"The goal is to return the kidnapped and uproot the Hamas regime in Gaza," he said.

Asked about post-war scenarios for Gaza, Netanyahu said it was "clear" that Israel would maintain "military control in the foreseeable future."

"We also want to create a civilian administration, if possible with local Palestinians" and regional backing "to manage humanitarian supply and later on civilian affairs in the Strip", he added.

Two members of Netanyahu's now-dissolved war Cabinet, former military chiefs Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, quit the government earlier this month citing the lack of a post-war plan.

dh/fb (AP, AFP)