Netanyahu says Israel ‘will do our best’ to evacuate civilians ahead of Rafah operation

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israeli forces have a plan to evacuate civilians out of harm’s way in the Gaza city of Rafah and eliminate the forces of the militant Palestinian group Hamas in the southern city.

Netanyahu on Monday told Fox News’s “Fox and Friends” anchor Brian Kilmeade he met with government and military officials Sunday and was shown a “double plan” for Israel’s highly anticipated invasion of Rafah, the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city at the border with Egypt.

“One for the evacuation and humanitarian assistance of the civilian population in Rafah,” Netanyahu said Monday. “And second, the elimination of the remaining quarter, roughly, of the Hamas terrorist battalions that are in Rafah. We wouldn’t — we can’t leave them there because that’s like leaving a quarter of ISIS in place in a defined territory. You wouldn’t do that, and, in fact, you didn’t do it. So, we’re not going to do that either.”

Netanyahu argued Hamas — a U.S.-designated terrorist group that has controlled Gaza since 2007 — will do “everything in their power” to ensure Israel does not evacuate Rafah’s civilians. More than 1 million civilians are estimated to be seeking refuge in Rafah at Israel’s direction.

Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of using civilians as “human shields” against Israeli forces.

“But that’s not going to stop us. We won’t give them immunity. We’ll get the population out. We’ll continue the job to achieve total victory. Total victory is how you win the war and total … victory is how you win the peace. You can’t win the peace if you don’t win the war,” Netanyahu said.

The White House has repeatedly sounded the alarm on Israel’s plans to invade Rafah after Netanyahu ordered the evacuation of the city earlier this month. The Israeli leader appears at odds with the White House’s warnings as the death toll in the enclave has climbed to more than 29,000 people since early October.

Asked if Israel will invade Rafah even if America advises against it, Netanyahu said, “Well, we’ll go in. We make our own decisions, obviously, but we’ll go in based on the idea of having also the evacuation of the civilians.”

“Anyway, I agree with the U.S. on this. I don’t have a different position because our strategy right now is and always has been from the beginning to try to get civilians out of the way and we’ve been largely successful,” he said, adding later, “We’ll do our best to get as many of them out. They’ll have the opportunity to leave.”

Netanyahu also weighed in on the ongoing talks between Hamas and Israel as the two sides try to hammer out a weeks-long cease-fire deal and ripped into what he described as “outlandish” demands from the militant group.

Asked if the basic contours of a cease-fire deal are agreed upon, Netanyahu said, “Well, I hope so. I think — I think we’re there. I’m not sure Hamas is there. They have what I’d call outlandish demands.”

“That’s like in another orbit — another planet. They have to come down to reality. And I think that if that’s the case we’ll be able to have a deal. We certainly want it. I want it,” he continued.

The six-week cease-fire deal would include a 6-week pause in fighting that could see about 40 Israeli hostages released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. The Biden administration announced the framework of the latest negotiations earlier this month following weeks of talks involving the leaders of Qatar, Jordan, Israel and Hamas.

An estimated 250 people were taken hostage during Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel, which killed about 1,200 others. A week-long cease-fire deal late last year saw the release of about 100 of these hostages.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.