Saturday, April 20, 2024

Israeli PM approves plans for military operation in Rafah, Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the latest truce and prisoner-exchange proposal by Palestinian group Hamas and has approved the army plan to launch a military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

“Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu approved plans for a military operation in Rafah, and the army is operationally preparing for it and for the evacuation of residents,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement without providing further details.

Hamas has announced on social media that it had presented its “vision” of a prisoner swap with Israel to Qatari and Egyptian mediators and was looking towards a ceasefire agreement which would involve the withdrawal of Israel Defense Forces from the besieged enclave.

As reported by Reuters, which has seen the proposal, Hamas proposed the release of Israeli women, including female soldiers, children, the elderly and ill hostages, in exchange for Israel freeing between 700 and 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Once the prisoner exchange is complete, Hamas added it would be ready to negotiate a date for a permanent ceasefire.

Tel Aviv, however, dismissed the proposal and accused Hamas of making “unrealistic demands”.

On Thursday, Netanyahu also reiterated Israel’s determination to complete its mission of “eliminating” Hamas.

Several countries have warned Israel against carrying out a military operation in Rafah, which houses more than 1.4 million Palestinians, according to international reports.

Israel has waged a deadly military offensive on the Gaza Strip since an Oct. 7 cross-border attack led by the Palestinian group Hamas in which nearly 1,200 people were killed.

At least 31,500 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have since been killed in Gaza, and 73,500 others injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

Israel has also imposed a crippling blockade on the Palestinian enclave, leaving its population, particularly residents of northern Gaza, on the verge of starvation.

The Israeli war has pushed 85% of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid a crippling blockade of most food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

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