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Netanyahu stands firm on Rafah offensive despite U.S. tensions

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to CNBC: We do have a disagreement with Biden on Rafah

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged tensions with historical ally the U.S. over the military offensive in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, but stood firm that the operation is required to protect Israeli security.

“Yes, we do have a disagreement on Gaza. Rather, on Rafah. But we have to do what we have to do,” Netanyahu said Wednesday, in an interview with CNBC’s Sara Eisen. “And, you know, sometimes you have to … you just have to do what is required to ensure your survival and your future. We cannot continue into the future by having Hamas retake Gaza.”

The U.S. and other nations have expressed concerns over Israel deepening its offensive into Rafah, citing fears over the safety of Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire of Israel’s war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Israel has repeatedly said that its conflict is against Hamas and that it does not target noncombatants, but human rights and aid organizations have stressed the impact of the military campaign and of the dearth of resources on the civilian population stranded in the Gaza enclave.

Over 1,200 people have been killed in Israel since October, according to Israel’s prime minister’s office. Meanwhile, more than 35,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry’s latest official count.

“I hope we can see eye to eye with the United States, we’re talking to them, but ultimately we do what we have to do to protect the life of our nation,” Netanyahu said.

Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed that Washington could not endorse a Rafah military incursion in the absence of a “credible” plan to safeguard civilians.

“Absent a credible plan to get them out of harm’s way and to support them, the President’s been clear for some time that we couldn’t and would not support a major military operation in Rafah,” he said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” according to a readout from the U.S. State Department.

The European Union’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, said Wednesday on social media that the EU “urges Israel to end immediately its military operation in Rafah, that is leading to more internal displacement, exposure to famine & human suffering. We condemn Hamas’ attack in Kerem Shalom.”

Rafah crossing

Israel remains at odds with neighboring Egypt over the opening of the Rafah crossing to allow fresh humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

“We’re not holding up the opening of Rafah,” Netanyahu said…

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