Netanyahu defends the planned attack on Rafah

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday defended his plan to expand Israel's military offensive in the southern city of Rafah, while his defense minister warned Hamas against testing Israel's resolve during Ramadan.

Netanyahu rejected the objections of President Joe Biden and other world leaders to Rafah's fate, saying he did not want to leave “a quarter of Hamas' terrorist army in place.”

Netanyahu said on Fox News Channel's “Fox & Friends” that Hamas must be completely defeated, otherwise the armed group will regroup, regain control of Gaza and repeat the October 7 attack that killed about 1,200 people and took about 250 hostage.

Rafah is a city in the southern Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt, where more than a million Palestinians took refuge after Israel invaded the Strip. Netanyahu said that Biden agrees with the need to destroy Hamas, but wants to ensure the safe exit of civilians from Rafah “before we enter. We agree to that.”

“Look, it's either Israel or Hamas. There's no middle way,” Netanyahu said. “We cannot leave a quarter of the Hamas terrorist army in place. They are there in Rafah. That would be like saying, you know, after the Allies resisted, they passed through Normandy, they passed through Germany, and you” I say: OK, we will leave a quarter of the Nazi army in place We will not go to Berlin, the last stronghold.”

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Netanyahu rejects Biden: He says Israelis overwhelmingly support the war

Developments:

∎ Narrated Mahjoub Al-Zwairi, a professor at Qatar University Al Jazeera The United States has pressured Israel not to tighten restrictions on access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, the third holiest mosque in the West Bank, during the month of Ramadan. “If the Israelis do not listen to the Americans, the West Bank will likely become another Gaza within months,” Zweiri warned.

∎ Israeli forces and security forces arrested 20 wanted persons in an operation described as an anti-terrorism operation in the West Bank. The Israeli army said that 3,500 suspects have been arrested in the West Bank since the war began, more than 1,500 of whom are linked to Hamas.

∎ Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani dismissed US efforts to airdrop aid as “merely symbolic” and part of a US attempt to justify supplying Israel with weapons used in Gaza.

When is Ramadan 2024? What is this? Muslims are preparing to celebrate the month of spirituality and meditation

The holy month of Ramadan prompted Muslims around the world to fast and worship on Monday, but it did not bring an end to the death and destruction caused by the war in the Gaza Strip despite intense efforts by the United States and other countries to broker a ceasefire. Palestinians prayed amid rubble and fear after talks faltered due to Israel's determination to crush Hamas and the armed group's demands for a path to permanent peace and the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Gaza. Hamas called for an escalation of resistance, which sparked a warning from Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant.

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He said: “I tell everyone who is thinking about trying it this month: We are ready. Do not make mistakes.”

Biden issued a statement in which he acknowledged that the holy month had come “at a moment of intense pain” in the enclave, where the death toll exceeded 31,000, while about two million were still displaced. He said the United States would continue to lead efforts to increase humanitarian aid while “working nonstop” to broker a peace agreement.

“As Muslims around the world gather over the coming days and weeks to break their fast, the suffering of the Palestinian people will be at the forefront of the minds of many,” Biden said. “It's at the front of my mind for me.”

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi warned on Monday that any restrictions imposed by Israel on the entry of Muslim worshipers into the Al-Aqsa Mosque campus during the month of fasting could lead to an “explosion.” A video posted on social media on Sunday night shows clashes between Israeli border police and worshipers, and police said they were working to “enable freedom of worship (while ensuring safety and security).”

Israel announced last week that it would not reduce the number of worshipers allowed to pray at the site, one of the three holiest Islamic sites, for at least a week while security monitored. The mosque is part of the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism where two biblical temples once stood.

The British Army's British Maritime Trade Operations Center said an explosion occurred near a ship in the Red Sea on Monday, but the ship's captain said no one was hurt. The attack likely came from Houthi rebels based in Yemen who targeted the ships, claiming they support the Palestinians in Gaza. Private security company Ambrey said the incident may have been related to a missile, but few details were available and the Houthis did not issue an immediate statement.

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A Houthi missile hit the merchant ship True Confidence in the Gulf of Aden last week, killing three crew members and forcing survivors to abandon ship. This was the first fatal strike since the attacks began late last year.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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