PM: Those who want to prevent us fighting in Rafah are telling us to lose the war. I won’t let that happen

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem, February 17, 2024. (GPO screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem, February 17, 2024. (GPO screenshot)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference to address the ongoing war in Gaza and efforts to return the hostages.

According to the premier, yesterday’s deadly terror shooting in southern Israel shows “the entire country is a [war] front.”

“This victory is within reach,” he says of the fight against Hamas.

After praising Israeli troops, Netanyahu turns to the hostages, saying his policy is “strong military pressure and tough negotiations.”

“We will continue to act this way until we free everyone,” he says.

He says Hamas’s demands remain “delusional,” and that accepting them would spell defeat for Israel. “Obviously, we won’t agree to them.

“When Hamas gives up on those delusional demands, we can make progress,” he says.

He says Israel is “close to being able to return southern residents safely to their homes.” In the north, creating the circumstances for residents to return will be achieved either diplomatically or militarily, he says.

He says “our military pressure is working” in Gaza, with most Hamas battalions destroyed. “We won’t stop until they are all destroyed,” he says.

The premier asserts that “total victory” over the Gaza-ruling Hamas will send a message to other adversaries of Israel.

The Hamas leadership is on the run, and running out of places to hide. “The day is near” when the Hamas leaders will have nowhere left to escape, he says. “It’s only a matter of time.”

Netanyahu says he told US President Joe Biden that Israel will fight until “total victory — and yes, that includes action in Rafah.” The IDF operation in Gaza’s southernmost city, he stresses, however, will “obviously” come only after civilians there have an opportunity “to evacuate to safe areas.”

“Those who want to prevent us from operating in Rafah are essentially telling us: lose the war. I won’t let that happen,” he vows. “We won’t capitulate to any pressure.”

The US has warned that it will not support a major IDF operation in Rafah unless or until it is clear that measures are in place to ensure the safety of civilians sheltering there.

Netanyahu says Israel also “will not capitulate to international dictates” regarding a future agreement with the Palestinians. “An agreement will be achieved only in direct talks between the two sides, without preconditions,” he says.

He says he will also continue “to firmly oppose unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood.” He protests at the notion of countries giving such recognition, saying there would be “no greater prize for terror” than doing so after the onslaught on Israel on October 7. He says it would also “prevent any future peace agreement.”

He ends his prepared remarks with a call for unity, and recounts an incident in which a wounded soldier, Noam Benchlouch, who lost a leg in Gaza and whom he met in hospital, insisted on the imperative of unity when another visitor criticized the heroic soldier for meeting with Netanyahu.

He says only a minority of Israelis are sowing division, and that there is unity in the IDF, in all parts of the nation and all parts of the country.

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