Tel Aviv, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejecteddemands for a cease-fire and vowed to press ahead with Israel’s military until achieving what he called “absolute victory.” He also said — despite myriad warnings from humanitarian agencies of possible dire consequences — that he had ordered the Israel Defense Forces to prepare to push into the southern Gaza city of Rafah.
Most of the roughly 1.5 million Palestinians displaced from their homes by the war in Gazanear the border with Egypt. Many are living in squalid tent camps and overflowing U.N.-run shelters.
Netanyahu made the comments Wednesday shortly after meeting visiting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been traveling the region in hopes of securing a cease-fire agreement.
The U.S. has been pushing Israel to adjust its tactics in Gaza amid soaring deaths. Officials in the Hamas-run enclave say the death toll is nearing 28,000. Many of those casualties have been women and children, but Hamas officials do not differentiate between combatants and civilians in their statistics.
“We are on the way to an absolute victory,” Netanyahu said, adding that the IDF’s operation in Gaza would last months, not years.
“There is no other solution,” the Israeli leader said, adding that agreeing to the terms proposed by Hamas, which has long been designated as a terror organization by Israel, Hamas and the European Union, would “invite another massacre.”
Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 terror attack on southern Israel, which saw the militants kill about 1,200 people and take more than 200 others hostage, sparked the current war in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, which Hamas has controlled for almost two decades.
He ruled out any arrangement that leaves Hamas in full or partial control of Gaza, which the group’s latest proposal would effectively have done, according to full details of it published by a media outlet closely associated with the group’s Lebanese allies, Hezbollah.
Netanyahu also said Israel was the “only power” capable of guaranteeing security in the long term.
The Israeli premier also called for the replacement of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
Blinken was scheduled to give a news conference later Wednesday.