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Gallant meets defense brass to prep for Rafah ground op

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CNN cited sources in Jerusalem who claimed that the IDF was set to take its first steps towards a ground offensive this week.


Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday evening held a briefing in preparation for the Israel Defense Forces operation against Hamas in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, according to his office.

Gallant “discussed a series of measures to be taken in preparation for operations in Rafah, with an emphasis on the evacuation of civilians and the expansion of activities related to the delivery of food and medical equipment to Gaza,” the Defense Ministry said.

Monday’s meeting was also attended by ​Defense Ministry Director General Maj. Gen. (res.) Eyal Zamir and Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Ghasan Alyan.

On Sunday, Israel’s Kan News broadcaster reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had decided to delay the operation. According to information approved by the military censor, the initial date set by the government was postponed for undisclosed reasons.

Kan News said it could not divulge additional details on the issue. Asked by JNS to confirm the reported delay, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said it would not comment on the matter.

CNN on Monday cited sources in Jerusalem who claimed that the IDF was set to take its first steps towards a ground offensive this week, but that the move was delayed in the wake of Iran’s aerial assault on Israel.

One official told the broadcaster that Israel remains determined to launch a ground offensive, though the timing remains unclear at the moment.

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday that the Biden administration hopes to hold a follow-up meeting on Rafah with senior Israel ministers later this week.

The White Hourse fiercely opposes a wide-scale attack on the Hamas battalions in Rafah and has been trying to convince Jerusalem to employ a more targeted approach.

Following the IDF’s withdrawal of almost all ground forces from Gaza on April 7, the army has shifted into a new phase in the war against Hamas, which last week saw forces enter the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya as well as Nuseirat in the central Strip for “targeted raids.”

On Sunday, the IDF announced the call-up of two reserve brigades to reinforce troops pursuing Hamas terrorist operatives in Gaza.

Gallant has told IDF soldiers that the decision to withdraw troops was made in preparation for the Rafah offensive, where Hamas’s final battalions are concentrated and where the senior leadership and remaining hostages are believed to be.

“The forces came out [of the Strip] and are preparing for their future missions, we saw examples of such missions in action at [Gaza City’s Al] Shifa [Hospital], and also for their future mission in the Rafah area,” Gallant stated on April 7.

Netanyahu on April 8 confirmed that the Rafah operation would proceed, claiming that a date had been set for the offensive.

“We are constantly working to achieve our goals—first and foremost the release of all our hostages and achieving a complete victory over Hamas. This victory requires entry into Rafah and the elimination of the terrorist battalions there,” the premier said.

The Israeli government has repeatedly emphasized that telling Israel to refrain from operating in Rafah is equivalent to demanding that it lose the war. According to Israel, the final four Hamas battalions, comprising some 3,000 terrorists, are holed up in the city along the Egyptian border.

Many of the 133 hostages still in the hands of Hamas after 192 days are believed to be held in the southernmost city. Two captives were rescued from the city by special forces in a military operation in February.

Image: Israeli Defense Minister meets with senior security officials to discuss plans for an invasion of Rafah, April 15, 2024. Credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry.

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