Israeli PM orders ground operation plan in Gaza's Rafah amid conflict
Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday instructed the army to prepare a plan for a ground operation in Rafah, the southernmost Gazan city, where over half of the 2.3 million Gaza residents fled due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
Netanyahu's office said in a statement that the prime minister has ordered the army and the security establishment to submit to the cabinet "a combined plan for evacuating the (Gaza) population and destroying the (Hamas) battalions" in Rafah, which was previously considered a safe zone from Israel's relentless bombardments.
He said a powerful ground operation is needed to "eliminate" Hamas militants who are still holed up in southern Gaza, but the population should be allowed to evacuate in advance.
"It is impossible to achieve the goal of the war without eliminating Hamas and by leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah," he said, adding, "It is clear that intense activities in Rafah require the evacuation of civilians."
The remarks came after U.S. President Joe Biden criticised Israel's retaliatory offensive in Gaza while warning of a high death toll among Palestinian civilians if Israeli ground troops push deeper into Rafah.
Earlier on Friday, Israel launched more deadly airstrikes on Gaza, killing 15 people, including eight in Rafah, according to the Gaza-based Health Ministry.
The ministry said Friday that nearly 28,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched the deadly military attacks in the enclave on October 7, 2023.
(With UNI/Xinhua inputs)
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