Netanyahu: ‘Too early’ to know if hostage deal will happen; IDF will tackle Hamas in Rafah

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a televised evening press conference on February 29, 2024. (Screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a televised evening press conference on February 29, 2024. (Screenshot)

In a televised press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has secured “freedom of operation” for the IDF in Gaza, despite pressure from world leaders and world media, that is “unprecedented” in the history of the state, and that the campaign will continue until “total victory.”

He opens by sending condolence for the victims of this afternoon’s terror attack near the settlement of Eli in the West Bank.

He says the pressure to halt the war against Hamas is growing, but that he will resist it. He compares his resistance to international pressure to that of prime ministers David Ben-Gurion declaring independence, Levi Eshkol helming the Six Day War and Menachem Begin hitting Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osiraq. He also cites his own ongoing battle against Iran’s nuclear program, his fight against efforts to impose a “Palestinian terror state,” and his “doubling of settlements” despite pressure “to strangle” the settlement enterprise altogether.

Thanks to his efforts, he says, and despite international pressure to end the war before its aims are achieved, a Harvard-Harris poll this week found 82 percent support for Israel among the US public. “More than four in five American citizens support us and not Hamas,” he says, and that broad support “gives us the strength to continue the campaign until Hamas is destroyed.”

Along with Khan Younis, where the IDF is focused now, he says the campaign will deal with tackling Hamas in central Gaza and Rafah. Non-combatants will be evacuated, humanitarian needs addressed and international law honored, he says. “Victory over Hamas requires the destruction of all the remaining Hamas battalions — in the center of Gaza and in Rafah.”

Netanyahu says Israel is making relentless efforts to get its hostages back — “a sacred goal,” he says. “I’m demanding to know in advance the names” of all the hostages Israel is supposed to see released within the current proposed framework, he says, adding that it is “too early” to know if the planned deal will come to fruition in the coming days.

In any case, “we won’t capitulate to Hamas’s delusional demands,” he says. “If we capitulate, we simply won’t be here,” he says.

“We are determined” to return all the hostages, “with or without a framework,” he says.

He also hails the recent Knesset vote against unilateral Palestinian statehood, backed by 99 MKs.

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