Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Tuesday that the military would launch a ground offensive on Gaza’s far-southern Rafah city “with or without” a truce deal being negotiated with Hamas.

He issued the warning despite strong concerns raised by top ally Washington and hours before the arrival of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Israel on his latest Middle East crisis tour.

“The idea that we will halt the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question,” said Netanyahu, who vowed to destroy Hamas over their October 7 attack that sparked the deadliest ever Gaza war.

“We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate the Hamas battalions there with or without a deal, in order to achieve the total victory,” he told families of some of the hostages still being held in Gaza, his office said.

Netanyahu’s comments came as Hamas was weighing the latest plan for a truce proposed in Cairo talks with US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators who had raised cautious hopes for an end to the fighting.

The Palestinian militant group said that it was considering a plan for a 40-day ceasefire and the exchange of scores of hostages for larger numbers of Palestinian prisoners.

The Islamist group, whose envoys returned from Cairo talks to their base in Qatar, would “discuss the ideas and the proposal,” said a Hamas source, adding that “we are keen to respond as quickly as possible.”

Sources in Egypt earlier told Al-Qahera News, a site linked to Egyptian intelligence services, that Hamas envoys were due to “return with a written response.”

An Israeli official told AFP that the government “will wait for answers until Wednesday night”, and then “make a decision” whether to send negotiators to Cairo.


With AFP