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Israel-Hamas war: Netanyahu says Israel ‘will stand alone’ after threatened US arms holdup

JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that a U.S. threat to withhold some weapons would not stop Israel from continuing its offensive in Gaza, indicating it could proceed with an invasion of the populated city of Rafah against the will of his closest ally. .

President Joe Biden urged Israel not to pursue such an operation, fearing it would worsen the humanitarian catastrophe in the Palestinian enclave. On Wednesday, he said the United States would not provide offensive weapons for an offensive on Rafah, increasing pressure on Netanyahu.

But in a statement released Thursday, Netanyahu said: “If we have to be alone, we will be alone. If necessary, we will fight with our nails. But we have more than nails.

Israel’s top military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, also appeared to downplay the practical impact of any weapons hold-up. “The army has ammunition for the missions it is planning, as well as the missions in Rafah. We have what we need,” he said in response to a question at a conference of press.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to invade Rafah, where some 1.3 million Palestinians – more than half the population – have found refuge. The southern Gaza city is also the main hub for humanitarian operations, which have been severely hampered by the crisis. the closure of the two main crossing points in Gaza this week.

Israel says Rafah is Hamas’s last bastion and that the military must intervene there if it hopes to dismantle the group and return the many hostages captured in the Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war.

In an earlier response to Biden’s decision, far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir wrote an article on the X platform with a heart between the words “Hamas” and “Biden.” He and other ultranationalist members of Netanyahu’s coalition support a large-scale operation in Rafah and have threatened to overthrow his government if it does not go ahead.

Aid groups say an invasion of Rafah would be catastrophic. UN says most of territory’s 2.3 million Palestinians are hungry and northern Gaza is already suffering “total famine”.

Even the limited operation launched by Israel earlier this week, in which a tank brigade captured the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, plunged humanitarian operations into crisis.

It also complicated months-long efforts by the United States, Qatar and Egypt to negotiate a ceasefire and the release of the hostages. Hamas said this week it had accepted a ceasefire proposal between Egypt and Qatar, but Israel says the plan does not meet its “fundamental” demands. Several days of follow-up talks appeared to end inconclusively on Thursday.

Some analysts said Biden’s hard line against Israel and the divide between the allies threatened to weaken Israel’s negotiating position and harden Hamas’s positions. Hamas has demanded guarantees for an end to the war and a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as part of any deal – steps Israel has ruled out.

“This sends a discordant message at a time when Hamas is clinging to a hostage deal in the hope that pressure will increase on Israel and it will achieve a ceasefire without having to give anything in return,” said the Israel Policy Forum, a pro-Israel organization based in New York.

The war began with Hamas surprise attack in southern Israel, during which he killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took another 250 hostages. Militants still hold around 100 prisoners and the remains of more than 30 people after most others were freed in a ceasefire last year.

The war has killed more than 34,800 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The Israeli offensive, carried out with munitions supplied by the United States, caused considerable damage and forced around 80% of Gaza’s population to flee their homes.

Israel’s capture of the Rafah crossing on Tuesday forced the closure of a key entry point for fuel, and it is unclear when it will reopen. The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, said it only had enough supplies to sustain operations for a few days and had started rationing.

Israel has reopened its side of the neighboring Kerem Shalom crossing – Gaza’s main cargo terminal – after a rocket attack over the weekend, but UNRWA, Gaza’s main aid provider, says aid cannot be transported to the Palestinian side due to the security situation. .

A recently reopened road in the north is still operating, but only 60 trucks entered Tuesday, well below the 500 that entered Gaza each day before the war.

The first aid ship at its destination an American-built floating pier which was to be installed in Gaza left early Thursday. But it is unclear when exactly this corridor will be operational, and even then it will not be able to process as much aid as Gaza’s two main land crossings.

Maj. Pete Nguyen, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday that parts of the pier were still in the Israeli port of Ashdod, awaiting more favorable seas before being moved off Gaza. He said the US ship Sagamore, which left Cyprus, would transport aid to another ship, the Roy P. Benavidez, which is off the coast of Gaza.

“In the coming days, the United States will launch an internationally supported effort to expand the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza using a floating jetty,” he said.


Associated Press writers Sam Mednick in Jerusalem, Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, Ellen Knickmeyer and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

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