Gantz: IDF Will Enter Rafah if Hostages not Released by Ramadan

By Hamodia Staff

Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, February 18, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel will begin its anticipated ground offensive in Rafah, Gaza, if the Hamas terror group does not release the remaining Israeli hostages it is holding captive by the start of the Muslim holiday month of Ramadan, War Cabinet member Benny Gantz said Sunday, reports the Times of Israel.

“The world must know, and Hamas leaders must know — if by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will be extended to the Rafah area,” Gantz said, at a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who met with Israeli officials in Yerushalayim.

Ramadan, a Muslim month of daytime fasting, begins March 10 this year.

“We will do so in a coordinated manner, facilitating the evacuation of civilians in dialogue with our American and Egyptian partners to minimize civilian casualties,” Gantz continued.

“To those saying the price [of an offensive] is too high, I say this very clearly: Hamas has a choice — they can surrender, release the hostages, and the citizens of Gaza will be able to celebrate the holiday of Ramadan.”

Israel has been planning a ground offensive in Rafah, the last remaining stronghold of Hamas terrorism in Gaza and the believed location of the remaining 134 hostages held by the group. Egypt, however, which shares a border with Gaza at Rafah, has been fiercely opposed to the operation, and even warned that its decades-long peace treaty with Israel could be in jeopardy if such an offensive took place.

The United States has warned Israel to not enter Rafah until it can secure the safety of the estimated million Gazans who have fled to Rafah in the wake of the war. President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Binaymin Netanyahu that he “should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support” of the city’s population.

Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to defeat the remaining six battalions of Hamas’ forces.

On Saturday, Biden stated in a press conference that he does not think a ground invasion will occur soon.

“I don’t anticipate, I’m hoping that the Israelis will not make any massive land invasion…It is my expectation that’s not going to happen.”

Biden also said that he has “made the case,” and feels strongly about Israel engaging in a “temporary ceasefire to get the hostages out, and that is underway.”

“I’m still hopeful that can be done.”

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