Israel sets deadline for Rafah offensive as Netanyahu vows to ‘finish the job’ in Gaza

A member of Israel’s War Cabinet has vowed to invade Rafah if remaining Israeli hostages are not freed by the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month, Israel’s plan to invade the border city have sparked concern around the world, even from some of the country’s staunchest allies.

More than half of Gaza’s population have fled to Rafah, which lies on the froniter with Egypt, after Israeli forces ordered them to evacute there.

Concerns have grown that Israel may attempt to push the Palestinians into Egypt – something Israel denies.

On Sunday, however, Neyanyahu brushed off growing calls to halt the looming offensive, vowing to “finish the job” in Gaza.

The Ramadan deadline was set by retired general Benny Gantz, part of the Israeli PM’s three-member War Cabinet.

He is an influential voice, but not the final word on what might be in store.

So far the Israeli government has not publically discussed a timeline of a ground offensive in Rafah.

“If by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will continue to the Rafah area,” Gantz told a conference of Jewish American leaders.

Ramadan, expected to begin March 10, is historically a tense time in the region.

Netanyahu wants Israel to achieve “total victory” over Hamas. But criticism is rising – even inside Israel itself – about the extent to which this is possible and at what cost.

Israel’s war with Hamas has killed at least 28,985 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

The 7 October attack by Hamas killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and around 250 were taken hostage.

Palestinian militants still hold around 130 hostages, a fourth of them believed to be dead – some due to Israeli fire.

Most of the others were released during a weeklong ceasefire in November.

(Source: Euronews)