World Israeli minister: 'I'll topple Netanyahu if he does not...

Israeli minister: 'I'll topple Netanyahu if he does not invade Rafah'

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The IDF said its ground forces left southern Gaza due to exhaustion and not because the war was over but the decision was made just days after Joe Biden held a tense phone call with Mr Netanyahu. Mr Biden demanded more aid be let into Gaza, as well as better protection of civilians and aid workers.

Mr Netanyahu, however, promised on Sunday that Israel would “complete the elimination of Hamas in the entire Gaza Strip including Rafah and to ensure that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to Israel.”

Israel believes many of the hostages taken by Hamas last year are being held in Rafah and estimates that Hamas has four battalions left in the city, amounting to some 4,000 of its members.

Mr Netanyahu stressed again on Monday the necessity of the IDF entering Rafah, saying: “It will happen. There is a date.”

He made the remarks amid speculation in Israel that Mr Biden managed to convince Mr Netanyahu to call off the invasion of Rafah.

Mr Ben-Gvir, who heads the far-Right Jewish Power party, has long advocated for the army to go into Rafah, while opposing any ceasefire deal with Hamas. Nir Barkat, the economy minister, told The Telegraph earlier this month that he also expected the IDF to invade.

“Just as the allies didn’t leave one fifth of the Nazis in Germany, Israel won’t leave one fifth of Hamas in Gaza,” Mr Barkat said.

Soldiers in a narrow alleyway carrying rifles

Betzalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister and another of Mr Netanyahu’s hard-Right coalition partners, also voiced his opposition to the situation, calling on the prime minister to urgently convene the security cabinet.

“The only forum authorised to make significant decisions in war is the full [security] cabinet, but unfortunately this is not how things are happening, and we are seeing decisions being made in the smaller [war] cabinet without approval … under international pressure that is harming the war’s momentum and our security interests,” Mr Smotrich said.

Mr Smotrich was criticised last month when he asserted that freeing the hostages in Gaza wasn’t the most important issue. The leader of the hard-Right National Religious party is also against striking a deal with Hamas, calling instead for maximum military pressure on Hamas.

The families of the hostages raged against Mr Ben-Gvir and Mr Smotrich following their remarks on Monday, saying “those representing an extreme minority are sacrificing 133 hostages to their deaths in the name of messianic zealotry”.

An Israeli delegation returned to Cairo this week for another round of negotiations with Hamas after the terror group turned down several proposals in the past couple of months.

Hamas insists on a permanent ceasefire as well as a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, which effectively would leave the group in charge of the enclave.

Israel has dismissed those demands repeatedly, but reportedly agreed to proposals mediated by Qatar and Egypt to engage in a six-week ceasefire in return for 40 hostages and hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including some serving life in prison for murder.

The plan was backed by Bill Burns, the CIA director, who attended the talks. Israel has asked Mr Burns to obtain a list from Hamas of the 40 hostages who are alive and another including the Palestinian prisoners they wish to be released in exchange.

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