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Netanyahu Defies Biden, Green Lights Offensive Into Hamas Stronghold

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the green light on Friday for Israel to launch a ground invasion against a Hamas stronghold in south Gaza, despite the Biden administration’s warnings, according to NBC News.

Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is “preparing for the operational side and for the evacuation of the population” in Rafah, the southernmost region of Gaza bordering Egypt and a hotbed of remaining Hamas terrorists, according to NBC. President Joe Biden said last week that an Israeli operation in Rafah would be crossing a “red line.”

“Israel has no choice but to go into Rafah, where four Hamas battalions and the Gaza-Egypt tunnels that resupply Hamas with weapons are still standing,” Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, previously told the DCNF. “If not, Hamas will emerge victorious and Israel will be vulnerable to more Oct. 7’s as Hamas has threatened.”

Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and killed over 1,200 civilians and took hundreds of others hostage, prompting the ongoing counteroffensive by the IDF in Gaza.

Israel announced on Thursday there is a plan to move into Rafah and ensure the safety of the civilian population, according to The Washington Post. Israel plans to set up “humanitarian islands” in central Gaza, which will provide refugees with shelter, food and other goods.

Netanyahu’s office also noted in the Friday statement that ongoing negotiations for a deal to secure the hostages is difficult because Hamas is making “ludicrous” demands, according to The New York Times.

Though the exact timeline for a Rafah operation is unknown, Netanyahu hinted earlier in the week that the fighting could be wrapped within a month, according to Axel Springer, Politico’s parent company.

“We’ve destroyed three-quarters of Hamas’ fighting terrorism battalions. And we’re close to finishing the last part in warfare,” Netanyahu told Axel Springer on Monday. “[Fighting will not] take more than two months … Maybe six weeks, maybe four.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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