Intense fighting in Rafah near end, says Netanyahu

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the “intense phase” of fighting in Rafah in southern Gaza is nearly over, but that this does not mean that the war is coming to an end.

He said the war would continue until Hamas was completely driven from power.

He added that the Israeli military would soon be able to redeploy troops to the border with Lebanon, where exchanges of fire with Hezbollah have been escalating.

Mr Netanyahu also again rejected the idea that the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority should run Gaza in place of Hamas.

“In the end, you will have to do two things: you will need the ongoing military demilitarisation by the Israel Defense Forces and you will need to establish a civil administration, I hope that with the support and management of certain countries in the region, I think this is the right way to move forward,” he said in an Israeli television interview.

“I’ll tell you what I’m not ready to do, I’m not ready to establish a Palestinian state there, I’m not ready to hand it over to the Palestinian Authority. I’m not ready to do that.”

Residents of Rafah said there had been more clashes in the city, while Israeli air strikes on Gaza City are reported to have killed the Hamas-run health ministry’s director of emergency services.

An aid distribution centre was also hit: the IDF said it was being used by Hamas.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant is starting a visit to Washington, to discuss the war in Gaza and the escalating tensions with Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran.

The Israeli military launched a campaign to destroy Hamas in response to the Palestinian armed group’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people – mostly civilians – were killed and 251 others were taken hostage.

More than 37,551 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry. Its figures do not differentiate between civilians and combatants, but it had reportedly identified 14,680 children, women and elderly people among the dead by the end of April.



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