Netanyahu defiant on Rafah invasion as officials meet in Qatar for ceasefire talks

World

Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated his determination to carry out a ground invasion of Rafah, despite growing pressure from Western allies.

The Israeli prime minister rebuked Joe Biden, saying he made it “supremely clear” to the US president he intended to go ahead with an assault on the southern Gaza city where he believes Hamas‘s remaining battalions are hiding.

But US secretary of state Antony Blinken has said he hopes to secure a ceasefire agreement and the release of hostages in Gaza in his upcoming trip to the Middle East.

Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened an invasion of Rafah. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened an invasion of Rafah. Pic: Reuters

Meanwhile, Mr Netanyahu‘s intelligence chief, David Barnea, has attended talks in Doha aimed at reaching a truce, leaving Qatari officials “cautiously optimistic” but they cautioned any ground attack would set back negotiations.

A United Nations-backed report has warned “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza, as around half of the territory’s population faced “catastrophic hunger”.

Without urgent action, there is expected to be famine from now until May, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, an agency that monitors hunger globally.

Alongside that, the UN’s human rights office said Israel’s restrictions on the entry of aid into Gaza could amount to a war crime – something Israel denied.

More on Gaza

In other developments in Gaza:

• Incoming Palestinian PM Mohammad Mustafa laid out plans for a revitalised Palestinian Authority and an independent trust fund to oversee Gaza’s reconstruction.
• Italy expressed its strong opposition to any Rafah invasion, with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni warning of “even more catastrophic consequences for the civilians crowded in that area”.
• Fighting in the Gaza Strip has left at least 31,819 Palestinians dead since 7 October last year, said the Hamas-run health ministry.
• Britain’s deputy prime minister, Oliver Dowden, defended Israel’s right to protect itself, but called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza on humanitarian grounds.

Destroyed buildings in Gaza, as seen from southern Israel. Pic: AP
Image:
Destroyed buildings in Gaza, as seen from southern Israel. Pic: AP

Read more:
Biden and Netanyahu hold first phone call in a month
Israeli forces ‘reinvade Gaza City’ after al Shifa hospital raid
‘Words not enough’ from US on Middle East conflict, says Sinn Fein leader

Palestinians outside an UN warehouse as famine could be 'imminent'. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Palestinians outside a UN warehouse as famine could be ‘imminent’. Pic: Reuters

In recent weeks, there have been growing tensions between Israel and a number of its Western allies who have become increasingly vocal about the country’s military actions in Gaza.

This comes as the UN warned of possible war crimes being committed by Israel, related to the flow of aid into the territory.

Palestinians receive aid outside an UNRWA warehouse. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Palestinians receive aid outside a warehouse in Gaza. Pic: Reuters

Jeremy Laurence, a UN human rights office spokesperson, said: “The extent of Israel’s continued restrictions on entry of aid into Gaza, together with the manner in which it continues to conduct hostilities, may amount to the use of starvation as a method of war, which is a war crime.”

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