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Netanyahu says Israel could ‘do it alone’ if U.S. opposes Rafah assault – National


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has once again urged Israel not to carry out its promised invasion of the Gaza city of Rafah.

But after the top U.S. diplomat’s meeting with the country’s war cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would “do it alone” if necessary.

More than a million Palestinians have sought refuge in Rafah from devastating Israeli ground and air strikes further north. So little food has been allowed into Gaza that up to 60 per cent of children under five are now malnourished, compared with fewer than one per cent before the conflict began, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

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The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza raised the territory’s death toll Thursday to nearly 32,000 Palestinians. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

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Some 1,200 people were killed on Oct. 7 when Palestinian militants launched a surprise attack out of Gaza, which triggered the war, and abducted another 250 people. Hamas is still believed to be holding some 100 people hostage, as well as the remains of 30 others.

Blinken told reporters Friday after the meeting that the U.S. shares Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas. But he said the ground operation “is not, in our judgment, the way to achieve it.”

It is his sixth trip to the region since the attacks. The top U.S. diplomat said he focused on efforts to forge a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and to increase the amount of humanitarian aid flowing into the war-battered Gaza Strip.

He said there has been progress, but still “lots of work to be done” before a deal is reached.

The U.S. has been working for weeks with mediators Qatar and Egypt in search of a formula that would halt the fighting in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas militants in Gaza.

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