Culture minister: Troops going into Rafah will endanger the hostages

Culture and Sports Miki Zohar arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on December 10, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Culture and Sports Miki Zohar arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on December 10, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Culture Minister Miki Zohar says that sending troops into the southern Gaza city of Rafah will endanger the hostages held by terrorists.

The minister, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, is asked at a Knesset committee meeting whether the potential entrance of troops into the city would put the hostages in danger.

“The answer is yes,” Zohar says. “It’s clear that we don’t want to put anyone in danger, not a single hostage. But the answer is yes, going into Gaza will endanger the hostages.”

A short time afterwards, Zohar apparently tries to soften his comments, writing on X that a ground offensive in Rafah is necessary to apply pressure on Hamas.

“The only way to reach a deal is massive military pressure on Hamas, including ground entry into Rafah,” Zohar writes. “That’s the only way Hamas will pursue a deal. Despite the risk involved in military maneuvering, this is the way to bring all the hostages back home and ensure the complete elimination of Hamas.”

Rafah, which sits on the Gaza-Egypt border, is the last remaining Hamas stronghold in the enclave, but it is also where over a million displaced Palestinians have fled to seek shelter from fighting elsewhere.

Netanyahu pushed back Saturday on growing calls from world leaders to avoid a ground operation in Rafah, saying doing so would mean losing the war against Hamas.

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