Middle East

Netanyahu says Israel advancing to ‘end of the stage of eliminating’ Hamas’ army in Gaza

By Tamar Michaelis and Sugam Pokharel, CNN

CNN  — 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday the country’s military is nearing the “end of the stage of eliminating” Hamas’ army in Gaza.

“I returned yesterday from a visit to the Gaza Division. I saw very considerable achievements in the fighting being carried in Rafah. We are advancing to the end of the stage of eliminating the Hamas terrorist army; we will continue striking its remnants,” Netanyahu said, speaking to a group of mainly Israeli and international military officials studying at the National Security College.

He again vowed that Israel would achieve its goals in its war against Hamas: returning hostages from Gaza, eliminating Hamas’ military and governing capabilities, ensuring that Gaza will not constitute a threat against Israel and also returning displaced Israeli residents securely to their homes in both the south and the north.

This picture taken from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip shows smoke plumes billowing during ongoing battles in the Sultan neighbourhood in the northwest of Rafah on June 18, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP) (Photo by BASHAR TALEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Before launching a military operation in Rafah in May, Israeli leaders had maintained that the southern Gaza city was the last stronghold of Hamas.

Netanyahu said last month that the “intense phase of the war with Hamas (in Gaza) is about to end,” and that the military’s focus could then shift to Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

“It doesn’t mean that the war is going to end, but the war in its current stage is going to end in Rafah. This is true. We will continue mowing the grass later,” Netanyahu told Channel 14 Television on June 23.

Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza after the Hamas-led October 7 attacks on southern Israel, in which at least 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 others were abducted.

Israeli attacks in Gaza have since killed at least 37,718 Palestinians and injured another 86,377 people, according to Gaza health officials.

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