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Israeli PM seeks cabinet approval for ground operation in Rafah


 , Updated 10:06, 25-Feb-2024
Palestinians crowd a street market in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 21, 2024. /CFP
Palestinians crowd a street market in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 21, 2024. /CFP

Palestinians crowd a street market in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 21, 2024. /CFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Saturday that he will seek cabinet approval next week for a ground operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where more than half of Gaza's population has sought shelter from Israeli bombings elsewhere.

Writing on X, Netanyahu said he will convene his cabinet at the beginning of the upcoming week to approve "the operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population."

"Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas, and the achievement of all the war's objectives," he wrote.

Rafah, the Gaza Strip's southernmost city, has become a sprawling refugee camp, densely populated by about 1.4 million people who have fled from the Israeli attacks in areas further north in the Palestinian enclave.

The United Nations has warned that an extension of Israel's military operation in Rafah will have "dire humanitarian consequences."

Also on Saturday, Israel's war cabinet approved sending negotiators to Qatar to continue talks aimed at securing a ceasefire and the return of hostages being held in Gaza.

The talks began in Paris, where the head of Israel's overseas intelligence service, Mossad, and his counterpart at the domestic Shin Bet security service met with mediators from the United States, Egypt and Qatar.

National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a televised interview Saturday evening that the "delegation has returned from Paris – there is probably room to move towards an agreement."

The negotiators had asked to speak to the cabinet "to bring us up to speed on the results of the Paris summit," he added shortly before the meeting.

Israeli media later reported that the meeting had concluded, with the cabinet agreeing to send a delegation to Qatar in the coming days to continue negotiations on a weeks-long truce involving the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

(With input from agencies)

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