Israeli Forces Will Move To Lebanon – Netanyahu

Israel’s prime minister has said the “intense phase” of fighting Hamas in Gaza is nearly over, allowing forces to move to the northern border with Lebanon to confront its ally Hezbollah.

In his first Israeli media interview since the start of the war in October, Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected the ground operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to be completed soon.

But he stressed that “doesn’t mean the war is about to end,” with action continuing until Hamas was completely driven from power.

Addressing the escalating hostilities with Hezbollah, which have raised fears of a wider regional war, he said: ″We can fight on several fronts and we are prepared to do that.”

Hezbollah has been launching missiles, rockets and drones into northern Israel in support of Hamas since the day after the 7 October attacks in southern Israel, when gunmen from Gaza killed about 1,200 people and took 251 others as hostages.

More than 37,590 people have been killed in Gaza during the military campaign that Israel launched in response, according to the Palestinian territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Mr Netanyahu suggested in his interview with Israeli Channel 14 TV on Sunday that the seven-week Israeli operation in Rafah – which has displaced more than a million Palestinians – would be the last major offensive of the war.

“The intense phase of the fighting against Hamas is about to end,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that the war is about to end, but the war in its intense phase is about to end in Rafah.”

Israeli forces would “continue mowing the grass all the time”, he added. “We will not give up.”

Mr Netanyahu also said he was ready for a “partial deal” that would secure the release of the remaining 116 hostages still in captivity, but that he was committed to completing “the goal of destroying Hamas.”

Hamas, which is demanding a permanent ceasefire and full Israeli withdrawal as part of any deal, said the comment showed the prime minister’s “clear rejection” of the proposal outlined last month by US President Joe Biden and backed by the UN Security Council.

Hamas also condemned the reported killing on Sunday of eight people in an Israeli air strike on a vocational college in Gaza City run by the UN Palestinian refugee agency, Unrwa, which was being used as an aid distribution point. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said buildings were being used for military purposes by Hamas, which the group rejected as a “lie.

The IDF announced on Monday that it had killed a Hamas commander responsible for projects and development at the group’s weapons manufacturing headquarters in an overnight air strike, without giving a location.

It also said troops were continuing to carry out raids in the Rafah area, and that they had located weapons, dismantled several underground tunnel shafts and eliminated “a number of armed terrorists.”

Mr Netanyahu said that once the intense phase of the Gaza war was over, Israeli forces would “face north.”

 

 

 

BBC/Shakirat Sadiq

 

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