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Israel’s Prime Minister Has Insisted It Will Invade Rafah And Called Hamas’ New Ceasefire Deal “Unrealistic”

Israeli officials confirmed that Netanyahu had approved the decision to invade Rafah, which includes plans to evacuate civilians to designated “humanitarian islands” elsewhere in Gaza.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has approved a plan to invade Rafah, where 1.4 million Palestinians are trapped with nowhere to go.

Israeli officials confirmed on Friday March 15 that Netanyahu had approved the decision, which includes plans to evacuate civilians to designated “humanitarian islands” elsewhere in Gaza.

However, they did not give a time frame for when the ground invasion would take place.

The announcement comes after Hamas presented a new ceasefire plan to permanently end the war, which would see it release all the Israeli hostages in exchange for Israel releasing Palestinians held in its prisons.

Under the proposal, the ceasefire would take part in three stages, with each stage lasting 42 days, sources told Al Jazeera.

In the first stage, Hamas said it will release women, children, the elderly and ill hostages in exchange for 700 to 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, including some serving life sentences, according to Reuters.

Israel would also withdraw from the main streets that run from the north to the south of the strip to allow displaced Palestinians to return and aid to enter.

In the second phase, all those held captive on both sides will be released after the two sides agree a plan for a permanent ceasefire.

The final phase would involve starting to reconstruct Gaza and lifting Israel’s siege of the strip.

Netanyahu said the proposal consisted of “unrealistic demands” but will still send a team to Qatar for the ceasefire talks, which are being mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the US.

Just days earlier, Netanyahu vowed to press forward with his plan to invade Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

“To win this war, we must destroy the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah. If not, Hamas will regroup, rearm and reconquer Gaza, and then we’re back to square one,” he said in a video address to a conference to the pro-Israeli AIPAC organization in Washington DC on March 12.

“And that’s an intolerable threat that we cannot accept,” he said.

“We will finish the job in Rafah while enabling the civilian population to get out of harm’s way,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel has “taken measures to minimize civilian casualties that no other army has taken in history.”

Netanyahu’s insistence on the Rafah offensive comes despite him facing increasing international pressure not to pursue the plan.

Even Israel’s biggest supporter during the war, US President Joe Biden, has said an Israeli invasion of Rafah would be a “red line” without credible civilian protection plans in place and that Netanyahu was “hurting Israel more than helping” by conducting the war in a way contrary to the country’s values.

With approximately 22,000 people per square kilometer, Rafah, situated on the border of Egypt, is now the most densely populated place on Earth after Israel forced civilians to flee there by declaring it as a “safe zone”.

It has become the last refuge for Palestinians in Gaza who have nowhere to go.

Israel’s ongoing airstrikes and ground offensive have now killed more than 31,000 Palestinians in Gaza mostly women and children since the war began on Oct. 7.

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