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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Israeli army commando brigade in the northern area. (Photo: via Prime Minister of Israel TW Page)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Rightwing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that calls not to invade the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah are calls for Israel to lose the war. 

His comments coincided with another statement by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant who said that deepening the military operation in Gaza would bring Israel closer to what he described as a ‘realistic agreement’ for prisoner exchange with the Palestinian Resistance.

‘Losing the War’

In an interview with the American news network, ABC, Netanyahu said “Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying lose the war. Keep Hamas there.” 

He confirmed that the intention of the Israeli army to enter Rafah is still there, claiming that the Israeli army is about to reach the last Hamas battalions in the city, which he considered to be the last stronghold of Palestinian fighters in Gaza.

Netanyahu has made similar claims about other Palestinian towns and regions in the past, initially claiming that Hamas’ stronghold is northern Gaza, and particularly in tunnels under the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. 

Later, he claimed that the southern city of Khan Younis is the ‘capital of Hamas,” before shifting focus to Rafah, which has been bombed repeatedly since the start of the war, but not attacked through a ground force. 

In a separate interview, this time with Fox News, Netanyahu said that the only way that Israel is able to free its prisoners in Gaza is through defeating the Palestinian Resistance Movement, Hamas. 

While there are reportedly over 100 Israeli prisoners, most of them military men and women, in Gaza, Israel holds 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners. 

‘Realistic Agreement’ 

Also commenting on the same issue, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the army’s deepening of its military operation in the Gaza Strip brought Tel Aviv closer to a ‘realistic’ deal to repatriate detainees in Gaza.

This came in a speech by Gallant that was broadcast by the official Israeli broadcaster, KAN. In the background, there were rockets and other weapons allegedly belonging to the Palestinian Resistance. 

For its part, Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV quoted a Hamas official as saying that any attack in the city would lead to the collapse of prisoner exchange negotiations.

Qatar, Egypt, and Washington are reportedly making efforts to reach a new prisoner exchange agreement, but there are differences over the terms of the agreement, most notably related to Hamas’s condition of a permanent end to the war. 

Israel wants to release its prisoners and carry on with its genocidal war on the Strip. According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 28,176 Palestinians have been killed, and 67,784 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Moreover, at least 8,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip. 

Palestinian and international organizations say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

The Israeli aggression has also resulted in the forceful displacement of nearly two million people from all of the Gaza Strip, with the vast majority of the displaced forced into the densely crowded southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt – in what has become Palestine’s largest mass exodus since the 1948 Nakba.

(The Palestine Chronicle) 

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