israel says it will protect civilians in rafah amid plans to invade

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would invade refugee-packed Rafah, but was drafting a plan to help people get out of harm’s way.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, brushing aside a chorus of international condemnation, said Sunday that an invasion of the southern Gazan city of Rafah would move forward as soon as Israel completed plans for the more than a million people sheltering there to be allowed to move to safety.

“Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying: ‘Lose the war,’” Mr. Netanyahu said on This Week With George Stephanopoulos.

But given the complexity of an operation in Rafah, a ground invasion does not appear likely to happen any time soon, analysts said. More than half of Gaza’s 2.2 million residents fled there to avoid fighting farther north, packing the city with refugees with nowhere else to go.

One Hamas official, Basem Naim, said Mr. Netanyahu was “deluding himself” if he thought that threatening to invade Rafah would increase the pressure on Palestinian negotiators to agree to Israel’s terms for a cease-fire. More than 28,000 people in Gaza, many of them women and children, have already been killed since the war began in October, Gazan health officials say.

“Such an invasion would mean more massacres and intensify the humanitarian disaster,” Mr. Naim said in a text message on Sunday.

Yaakov Amidror, a retired Israeli general and national security adviser, said that while Israel “must go into Rafah” to achieve its objectives of dismantling Hamas’s military capabilities and its ability to rule the Gaza Strip, the invasion would take time to plan.

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