GAZA BREAK: Hamas warned on Sunday that any Israeli offensive in the far southern Gaza city of Rafah would jeopardize talks on the release of hostages taken in the October 7 attacks.
“Any attack by the occupation army on the city of Rafah would undermine the exchange negotiations,” the head of the Palestinian group said. AFP as Benjamin Netanyahu promised to expand operations.
Israel's prime minister said earlier this week that he had ordered troops to prepare to enter the city to destroy Hamas, which has been carrying out deadly attacks on southern Israel.
Benjamin Netanyahu promises 'safe passage' for Rafa civilians
But it faces growing calls not to attack the Egyptian border town, which has become the last refuge for Gazans fleeing relentless Israeli bombardment elsewhere in the coastal territory.
Foreign governments, including Israel's main ally the United States, and humanitarian organizations in particular, have expressed deep concern about the impact of pressure on Rafah on displaced civilians.
About 1.4 million people – about half of Gaza's total population – have crowded into the Rafah, many living outside or in tents and where food, water and medical supplies are increasingly scarce.
In an interview to be broadcast on Sunday, Netanyahu told an American television station ABC News that those urging Israel not to enter the Rafah have effectively given Hamas permission to remain.
On October 7, Hamas captured around 250 hostages, reports en AFP the total is based on official Israeli data. Israel claims 132 are still in Gaza and 29 are believed to be dead.
Renewed ceasefire talks have taken place in Cairo, and Hamas is open to a ceasefire, including a possible hostage exchange for women and children held in Israeli prisons.
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