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Netanyahu says Rafah incursion inevitable despite US warnings

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday suggested the invasion of Rafah in Gaza will be unavoidable to eliminate Hamas forces, despite warnings from U.S. officials.

Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Netayanahu said there is no “alternative” to the invasion, which he argues is necessary to wipe out Hamas.

“There is no alternative to this. We cannot go around it; neither can we say ‘we will destroy 80 percent of Hamas and leave 20 percent,’ because from that 20 percent, they will reorganize and take over the Strip again and — of course — constitute a new threat to Israel,” Netanyahu said.

“This requires the elimination of the remaining battalions in Rafah and of course, the 1.5 battalions in the camps in the center. We are determined to do this,” he said.

Netanyahu told the committee about his Monday call with President Biden and said he “made it as clear as possible” that Israel is “determined to complete the elimination of these battalions in Rafah, and there is no way to do this without a ground incursion.”

Biden and other U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed concerns over Israel’s plans for Rafah, a city in Gaza that shares a border with Egypt. Millions of people seeking refuge are being housed in the region after being evacuated from other parts of the enclave since the start of the war in early October.

Netanyahu acknowledged what he called a “debate” with American leaders over the need to enter Rafah while maintaining he agrees with President Biden on wanting to provide humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza and helping facilitate their exit from the territory.

“We have been doing this since the beginning of the war,” Netanyahu noted.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday told reporters that Netanyahu has agreed to send senior officials to Washington, D.C. this week to further discuss Israel’s military plans.

Tensions between the Biden administration and Netanyahu have risen in recent weeks. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) gave a speech on the Senate floor starkly criticizing Netanyahu’s handling of the war and arguing a new government was needed in Israel.

More than 30,000 people in Gaza have been killed since Israel began an offensive last year in response to a brutal attack by Hamas that left around 1,200 dead in Israel.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu said Israel will “not be getting off the gas,” in its attacks in Gaza while maintaining he will try to minimize civilian casualties.

“Well, I’m telling you that we’re not getting off the gas. I’m telling you that we have to take care of Israel’s security in our future, and that requires eliminating the terrorist army. That’s a prerequisite for victory,” he told “Fox and Friends” earlier this month.

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