Netanyahu Says Date is Set to Begin Rafah Operation Despite Criticism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed on Monday that a date had been set to begin the IDF’s ground offensive in Rafah but did not say when it would happen, the Times of Israel reported.

In an April 8 video statement posted on social media, Netanyahu said victory against Hamas required the IDF to enter Rafah and eliminate the Hamas battalions stationed there. He vowed that this action “will happen,” adding that the date was set.

Netanyahu has said at least four times in the last two months that the Rafah plan was authorized but so far, the offensive has yet to materialize. Last weekend, the IDF withdrew its forces from Khan Younis, further reducing its presence in Gaza and calling into question whether the highly-anticipated offensive in Rafah would begin anytime in the immediate future.

Israeli officials believe Hamas has four remaining battalions stationed in Rafah. Hamas leadership and the remaining hostages are also believed to be hiding in the city.

The plan to launch an offensive in Rafah has drawn harsh criticism from the West, including from the Biden administration.

A video conference last week between US and Israeli officials on a possible Rafah ground operation grew tense with Biden administration officials expressing skepticism of the IDF’s plans.

Administration officials believe that the IDF’s proposed evacuation plan for the roughly one million civilians in the city was logistically impossible.

In his April 8 statement, the prime minister insisted that Israel could not win the war without going into Rafah. He said that Israel continued to work to achieve its goal of retrieving the remaining hostages and “achieving total victory over Hamas.”

In a press briefing later that day, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the prime minister had not briefed the administration on the date of the Rafah operation, which he reiterated was opposed by the White House.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday that Israel assured the administration that it would not launch the ground operation before it meets with administration officials in person next week.