Netanyahu says Israel will invade Rafah whether hostage deal reached or not

The prime minister directly contradicted his own foreign minister, who had promised to suspend the operation if Hamas released its captives.

Israel will send troops into the city of Rafah regardless of whether it reaches a ceasefire and hostage release deal with Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz had previously promised to cancel the controversial operation in exchange for the captives.
“The idea that we will stop the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question,” Netanyahu said in a statement from his office. “We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate Hamas’ battalions there — with or without a deal, to achieve total victory.”
Situated at Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, Rafah is currently home to an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians who have fled the northern reaches of the strip. Since October, Israel has carried out regular airstrikes in Rafah against what it claims are Hamas targets, and Netanyahu has threatened for months to launch a ground invasion of the city, despite objections from the US and UN.
However, Katz told Israel’s Channel 12 on Saturday that Israel would “suspend the operation” if Hamas agreed to release some of the roughly 130 Israeli hostages still in its captivity in Gaza.

As Katz spoke, Hamas was studying an Israeli ceasefire proposal that would see fighting temporarily paused so that several dozen hostages could be swapped for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is set to arrive in Israel to discuss the deal later on Tuesday, has called its terms “extraordinarily generous,” and called on the militants to “decide quickly” and accept it.
It is unclear how Netanyahu’s comments will affect Hamas’ decision. The militant group has previously rejected Israel’s terms, insisting that any truce include a path to a permanent ceasefire and a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
Netanyahu’s hardline coalition partners, however, have demanded that the PM go ahead with the Rafah operation. Any compromise, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on Sunday, would amount to a “humiliating surrender” for Israel. At a speech on Monday, Smotrich said that Israel should seek the “total annihilation” of its enemies, Israeli media reported.