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Israel prepare for ‘key’ Rafah offensive to crush Hamas’ ‘last bastion’ as terror group issues chilling hostage warning

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ISRAEL is gearing up for what could be a devastating ground invasion into the refugee-filled southern Gazan city of Rafah which it declared the “last bastion” of Hamas.

The terror group chillingly warned today that any offensive into Rafah, where half of Gaza’s population are sheltering, would “blow up” the hostage negotiations.

Israel is preparing for a ground invasion of the densely-populated border city of Rafah

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Israel is preparing for a ground invasion of the densely-populated border city of RafahCredit: AFP
PM Benjamin Netanyahu insists the city is the 'last holdout' of Hamas terrorists responsible for October 7

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PM Benjamin Netanyahu insists the city is the ‘last holdout’ of Hamas terrorists responsible for October 7Credit: Reuters
The city is packed with almost 1.6million Palestinians who have fled from the fighting in other areas

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The city is packed with almost 1.6million Palestinians who have fled from the fighting in other areasCredit: Reuters
Netanyahu is facing mounting calls not to invade Rafah as the UN fears a 'catastrophe'

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Netanyahu is facing mounting calls not to invade Rafah as the UN fears a ‘catastrophe’Credit: Rex

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that sending troops into the “final terrorist holdout” of Rafah is necessary to winning the four-month-old war against Hamas.

He claimed that Israel was working out a “detailed plan” to ensure “safe passage for the civilian population” ahead of the expected assault and rejected fears of a “catastrophe.”

“Victory is within reach. We’re going to do it. We’re going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions and Rafah, which is the last bastion,” he said.

However, Hamas has responded by warning that any Israeli ground offensive into Rafah will “blow up the hostage exchange negotiations,” a senior leader told Aqsa TV today.

read more on israel-hamas war

Netanyahu is facing mounting calls not to attack the city that borders Egypt as it has become the last refuge for Palestinians fleeing Israel’s relentless bombardment elsewhere in the coastal enclave.

UK Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron said he is “deeply concerned” about the planned ground invasion of the city.

In an interview with ABC today, the embattled Israeli leader said that all those urging Israel not to go into Rafah were effectively giving Hamas licence to remain.

Over half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have crowded into Rafah to escape the fighting and are packed into sprawling tent camps and U.N.-run shelters.

Egypt has threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if the IDF is sent into Rafah.

The Camp David Accords, which have been a cornerstone of regional stability for nearly a half-century, could be at risk of collapse.

Egypt fears a mass influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who may never be allowed to return.

It also warned that the fighting there could force the closure of the territory’s main aid supply route – leaving over a million Palestinians without a life line.

My daughter was cleaning up blood, then realised it was her dead dad…villagers in Oct 7 kibbutz are still terrified

On Saturday, Israeli air strikes killed at least 44 Palestinians and more than a dozen children.

The youngest victim was believed to be a three-month-old baby as four strikes tore through homes butchering multiple family members.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that over 28,176 Palestinian have been killed since the start of the war.

The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and fighters but claims most of those killed were women and children.

The war was sparked by Hamas’s bloody October 7 attacks on southern Israel, when Palestinian terrorists slaughtered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250.

Over 100 hostages were released in November during a week-long cease-fire in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas has said it won’t release the last of the hostages unless Israel ends its offensive and withdraws from the territory.

Israel says 132 captives are still being held in Gaza but 29 are thought to be dead.

Renewed talks for a pause in the fighting have been held in Cairo, with Hamas open to a ceasefire, including a possible exchange of hostages.

The terror group has also demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including senior militants serving life sentences.

Netanyahu has vehemently ruled out both demands, saying Israel will fight on until total victory and the return of all the captives.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met with the distraught British families of hostages still held in Hamas’ Gaza tunnels.

He described the kidnapping of innocent civilians by the terror group an “unthinkable horror” and told the frantic relatives that the UK will do “all it can” to bring them home.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu said he will not stop the ground offensive until Hamas is wiped out

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PM Benjamin Netanyahu said he will not stop the ground offensive until Hamas is wiped outCredit: AFP
The carnage of recent Israeli strikes which killed 44 and over a dozen kids

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The carnage of recent Israeli strikes which killed 44 and over a dozen kidsCredit: Reuters
Gazans mourn their dead relatives

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Gazans mourn their dead relativesCredit: Reuters
The majority of Gaza's population has fled to Rafah where they are camped in makeshift tents at the border with Egypt

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The majority of Gaza’s population has fled to Rafah where they are camped in makeshift tents at the border with EgyptCredit: Reuters
PM Rishi Sunak met with the British families of Israeli hostages this week

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PM Rishi Sunak met with the British families of Israeli hostages this week

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