Netanyahu to Approve “Operational Plans” on Rafah Next Week

Gaza, MINA – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that he is set early next week to approve “operational plans” related to Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip hosting over 1 million uprooted Palestinians, Middle East Monitor reports.

“At the beginning of the week, I will meet with the War Cabinet to approve operational plans in Rafah, including the evacuation of civilian residents,” Netanyahu said in a news conference.

For weeks, Israeli threats to launch a ground operation in Rafah, adjacent to the border with Egypt, have been escalating despite mounting regional and international warnings of potential catastrophic consequences.

Netanyahu added, “we are working to reach another framework for the release of our hostages, as well as the completion of the elimination of the Hamas battalions in Rafah,” referring to the Gaza-based Palestinian resistance group.

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“That is why I sent a delegation to Paris and tonight, we will discuss the next steps in the negotiations,” he said.

Talks for a prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas began Friday in Paris with an Israeli delegation led by Mossad chief David Barnea, CIA Director William Burns, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

Israeli media reported Saturday that the Israeli team had returned from Paris and spoke of “good negotiations and positive atmosphere.”

Daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted informed unnamed officials as saying that the talks were “good, even lasting longer than planned,” though there is still ground to cover.

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The talks focused on four demands by Hamas that Tel Aviv opposes, including the return of all residents of the northern Gaza Strip and the evacuation of all Israeli army forces from that area, according to Israel’s official broadcasting authority.

Three more “contentious issues” exist, it reported, including stepped up humanitarian aid, the duration of the cease-fire, and the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released.

A previous cease-fire between Hamas and Israel had lasted for a week from 24 November to 1 December, during which prisoners were exchanged, and humanitarian aid began to trickle into the besieged enclave. It had been mediated by Qatar, Egypt, and the US.

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Tel Aviv estimates that there are around 134 Israeli hostages in Gaza, while it detains at least 8,800 Palestinians in its prisons, according to official sources from both sides.

Rafah city is witnessing a large influx as it hosts at least 1.4 million Palestinians, including more than a million displaced individuals who fled to it due to Israeli army operations in the northern and central parts of the Gaza Strip, claiming it to be a “safe zone.” (T/RE1/P2)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)