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Israel threatens to attack Rafah if Hamas does not release hostages by Ramadan

Israel threatens to attack Rafah if Hamas does not release hostages by Ramadan Israel threatens to launch an offensive on the city of Rafah (Getty Images)
Author: Maria Kholina

Israel is prepared to expand its military operation in the southern Gaza Strip and launch a ground offensive toward the city of Rafah on the border with Egypt if hostages seized by the terrorist group Hamas are not returned home by the time of the Ramadan holiday in March, according to the member of the Israeli war cabinet Benny Gantz.

"The world must know, and Hamas leaders must know — if by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will continue everywhere, to include the Rafah area," he said in a speech to American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.

The sacred month of Ramadan for Muslims begins on March 10 this year.

According to the former Chief of Staff of the IDF and Defense Minister, Israeli forces will conduct this "in a coordinated manner, facilitating the evacuation of civilians in dialogue with our American and Egyptian partners to minimize civilian casualties."

"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 holy holiday of Ramadan," Gantz said.

Israel-Hamas war

On October 7, 2023, militants from the radical Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas attacked Israel from the territory of the Gaza Strip. According to official data, in the first days of the attack, militants killed 1200 civilians and soldiers and kidnapped about 250 people.

At the end of October, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began a ground military operation in the Gaza Strip, which continues to this day. The country's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated that the goal of the operation is the complete destruction of Hamas and the release of the hostages.

On February 8, Netanyahu stated that the total victory of the IDF is imminent. He also announced the readiness of the IDF to launch a ground invasion towards the city of Rafah near the border with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip.

On February 12, Israeli military aircraft struck Rafah. It later emerged that this was a special operation during which two Israeli hostages held by Hamas were released.

Meanwhile, Egypt threatens to suspend a key peace treaty with Israel if the country's army enters Rafah.