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Netanyahu Vows to Invade Rafah ‘With or Without’ Cease-Fire Deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel vowed anew on Tuesday to launch an invasion into the southern Gaza Strip, even as a renewed push for a cease-fire agreement was showing glimmers of a potential breakthrough.

After seven months of an Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, the United States, Qatar and several other countries have been hoping to broker a cease-fire, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is visiting the Middle East to press for an agreement.

But with Hamas arguing that any agreement should include an end to the war, and with right-wing politicians in Israel threatening to leave the government coalition if the long-planned incursion into the southern Gazan city of Rafah is delayed, Mr. Netanyahu said that Israel reserved the right to keep fighting.

“The idea that we will halt the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question,” he said in a meeting with the families of hostages being held in Gaza, according to a statement from his office. “We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate the Hamas battalions there — with or without a deal — in order to achieve the total victory.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s comments came a day before he was to meet with Mr. Blinken, who, along with other Biden administration officials, has been pressing Israel to avoid a major assault on Rafah in order to minimize civilian casualties. The war has already killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, Gazan health officials say.

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