HomeMiddle EastIsraelNetanyahu Announces End of "Intense Phase" in Gaza; Shifts Focus to Hezbollah...

Netanyahu Announces End of “Intense Phase” in Gaza; Shifts Focus to Hezbollah on Northern Border

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June 24, 2024 – Tel Aviv, Israel: In a pivotal development in the ongoing conflict, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the “intense phase” of fighting Hamas in Gaza is nearing completion.

In his first interview with Israeli media since the war’s commencement in October, Netanyahu signaled a strategic shift in focus towards the northern border with Lebanon to confront Hezbollah, a significant ally of Hamas.

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Netanyahu emphasized that although the intense operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah are expected to conclude shortly, the broader war against Hamas will persist until the group is completely ousted from power.

“The intense phase of the fighting against Hamas is about to end,” Netanyahu stated. “It doesn’t mean that the war is about to end, but the war in its intense phase is about to end in Rafah.”

He reiterated that Israeli forces would “continue mowing the grass all the time,” underscoring Israel’s ongoing commitment to countering Hamas.

The announcement comes amid escalating hostilities with Hezbollah, which have heightened fears of a wider regional conflict.

Since the attacks on southern Israel by Hamas on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,200 people and the taking of 251 hostages, Hezbollah has launched numerous missiles, rockets, and drones into northern Israel.

The resulting military campaign by Israel in Gaza has led to over 37,590 Palestinian deaths, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

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Netanyahu’s remarks were part of an interview with Israeli Channel 14 TV, where he indicated that the seven-week operation in Rafah would be the last major offensive of the war.

He also signaled readiness for a “partial deal” to secure the release of the remaining 116 hostages still held by Hamas, although he remains resolute in his goal of dismantling the militant group.

Hamas, however, condemned Netanyahu’s comments, particularly his dismissal of a proposal backed by US President Joe Biden and the UN Security Council, which called for a permanent ceasefire and full Israeli withdrawal.

Hamas spokespersons characterized Netanyahu’s stance as a “clear rejection” of the peace initiative. The group also denounced the reported Israeli airstrike on a vocational college in Gaza City, managed by the UN Palestinian refugee agency Unrwa, which killed eight people.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed the buildings were used for military purposes by Hamas, an allegation that Hamas rejected as a “lie.”

The IDF has been active in Rafah, where they have dismantled several underground tunnels, located weapons, and neutralized “a number of armed terrorists.”

An overnight airstrike reportedly killed a Hamas commander involved in the group’s weapons manufacturing operations, although specific details were not provided by the IDF.

As the intense phase of the Gaza operation draws to a close, Netanyahu outlined plans to redeploy troops to the Lebanese border for “defensive purposes.”

This move aims to facilitate the return of tens of thousands of Israelis displaced by Hezbollah’s rocket and missile attacks. Netanyahu asserted that Israel prefers a diplomatic resolution but is prepared to take military action if necessary.

“If we can, we will do this diplomatically. If not, we will do it in another way. But we will bring all [the residents] home,” he affirmed.

The situation on the northern front remains volatile, with Hezbollah’s attacks having killed at least 25 Israelis and prompted extensive retaliatory strikes from the IDF in southern Lebanon.

The UN reports that these strikes have resulted in over 400 Lebanese deaths and the displacement of tens of thousands.

On Monday, the IDF announced airstrikes on Hezbollah “terror targets” in southern Lebanon, including military structures in Aitaroun and infrastructure in Kfarkela and Khiam.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported an airstrike on a house in Aitaroun with no casualties.

Further intensifying the conflict, two Israeli reservists were injured, one seriously, by a Hezbollah anti-tank missile in the Israeli border town of Metula on Sunday night.

General C Q Brown, chairman of the US military’s joint chiefs of staff, warned that an Israeli offensive in Lebanon could escalate into a broader conflict involving Iran and other Iran-backed groups.

He noted that Hezbollah’s capabilities surpass those of Hamas in terms of rockets and overall military strength, suggesting that Iran would likely increase its support for Hezbollah in such a scenario.

He added that it would be “harder” for the US to defend Israel from Hezbollah attacks than during Iran’s missile and drone attacks in April.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, currently in Washington to discuss the latest developments, reaffirmed Israel’s preparedness for military action on multiple fronts, including Gaza and Lebanon.

Last week, the IDF confirmed operational plans for an offensive against Hezbollah, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz warning that Hezbollah would face destruction in an all-out war.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah stated that while the group does not seek a full-scale conflict, any escalation would render no place in Israel safe.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern over the potential for Lebanon to become embroiled in a conflict akin to the situation in Gaza, underscoring the urgent need for de-escalation.

As tensions remain high, the international community watches closely, hoping for a resolution that can prevent further bloodshed and regional instability.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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