Netanyahu appears determined to press on with ground offensive on Rafah

Israeli PM brushes aside warnings that assault on Gaza’s southernmost town would be a ‘human catastrophe’

Middle East crisis – live updates

Benjamin Netanyahu appears determined to push ahead with a ground offensive against Gaza’s southernmost town of Rafah but has claimed Israel will provide “safe passage” to the 1.3 million displaced Palestinians sheltering there.

Despite mounting warnings from aid agencies and the international community that an assault on Rafah would be a “catastrophe”, Netanyahu has reiterated his intention to extend Israel’s military operation against Hamas.

“We’re going to do it. We’re going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah, which is the last bastion, but we’re going to do it,” Israel’s prime minister told ABC News in an interview that will air on Sunday.

“We’re going to do it while providing safe passage for the civilian population so they can leave,” he said.

As Israeli forces have expanded ground operations steadily southwards in their war against Hamas over the past four months, Rafah has become the last refuge for more than half of the strip’s population of 2.3 million.

It remains unclear where the large number of people pressed up against the border with Egypt in overcrowded makeshift tent camps can go. When asked, Netanyahu said Israel was “working out a detailed plan”.

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