(Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO)
Benjamin Netanyahu

The War Cabinet will decide within 72 hours whether to launch a military operation.


The Israel Defense Forces will enter the Hamas stronghold of Rafah in southern Gaza irrespective of the outcome of hostages-for-ceasefire-and-terrorists talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

“The notion that we will stop the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question,” said the premier during a meeting at his office in Jerusalem with the Heroism Forum, which represents bereaved IDF families, and the Tikva Forum for Families of Hostages.

The military “will enter Rafah and eliminate the Hamas battalions there—with or without a deal—to achieve total victory,” he said.

The families at the meeting urged Netanyahu “to continue achieving the goals of the war and to withstand the international pressure,” according to a readout from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The War Cabinet will decide within the next 72 hours whether to launch a military operation to destroy Hamas’s remaining terror battalions in Rafah, Ynet reported earlier on Tuesday.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi has approved final battle plans for the operation, which will be accompanied by the evacuation of the city’s civilian population.

The hostage deal being discussed with Hamas includes significant compromises by Israel and, for the first time, Jerusalem is considering ending the war in the Gaza Strip, Axios reported on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz has said that the offensive in Rafah would be suspended if a deal to free the abductees is secured. “The release of the hostages is the top priority for us,” he stated Saturday, adding that “if there will be a deal, we will suspend the operation.”

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on Sunday that the government will lose its legitimacy if it forgoes the mission and instead accepts the “humiliating surrender” proposed to Hamas during talks.

In a video message shared on X, Smotrich urged Netanyahu to order the IDF to immediately enter Rafah “with all its might.”

Agreeing to the terms currently on the table would be tantamount to “a victory for the Nazis at the expense of hundreds of brave IDF soldiers who fell in battle. It would impose a death sentence on the [133 remaining] hostages and, above all, constitute an immediate existential danger to the State of Israel,” said Smotrich.

U.S. President Joe Biden has told Netanyahu that his administration will not support a major offensive against Hamas in Rafah. Instead, the Biden administration favors a limited operation aimed at attacking high-value Hamas targets and securing the Gaza-Egypt border.

Despite intense international opposition to a major offensive in Rafah, Israel has repeatedly stated that it is necessary to win the war to ensure that Hamas is not able to regroup and threaten Israel again.

According to a Harvard CAPS Harris poll released on Tuesday, 72% of Americans believe Israel should proceed with the battle, while 28% support Hamas’s continued terror rule in Gaza.