Netanyahu says Israel will ‘do it alone’ if US opposes Rafah assault

Russia and China veto US-proposed resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an Israel-Hamas hostage deal

Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu says Israel will attack the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million war refugees have sought shelter, with or without US backing.

His comments, during a visit to Israel on Friday by US secretary of state Antony Blinken, came as the senior US diplomat warned him that Israel risks international isolation.

“I told him that we won’t be able to beat Hamas without entering Rafah and eliminating the rest of their battalions that are there. I told him that I hope we do this with US support – but if we need to, we will do it alone,” Mr Netanyahu said, adding: “We recognise the need to evacuate the civilian population from the war zones, and of course to care for the humanitarian needs, and we are acting to achieve this.”

Mr Blinken, speaking after his talks with Mr Netanyahu and the Israeli war cabinet, said he spoke about Israel’s desire to beat Hamas and the need to ensure Israel’s long-term security. But, he added: “A massive ground invasion in Rafah is probably not the way to achieve these, and will cause harm to civilians.”


Mr Blinken also told Israeli leaders there were still some gaps to close in the ceasefire and hostage release negotiations, which continued on Friday night involving American, Israeli and Egyptian intelligence chiefs and the Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.

Diplomatic sources described Mr Blinken’s Tel Aviv meetings as “tense”. He pressed Israel to permit the return of residents of northern Gaza to their homes and warned that without a post-conflict plan, Israel risked losing international support and becoming bogged down in Gaza.

Mr Blinken’s talks in Tel Aviv came as Russia and China vetoed a US draft resolution at the United Nations that linked an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to Hamas releasing the hostages, held since Hamas’s October 7th attack on Israel.

The Security Council resolution, which marked the first time Washington had used such language, called for an “immediate and sustained ceasefire” lasting roughly six weeks that would protect civilians and allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Moscow accused Washington of a “hypocritical spectacle” that does not pressure Israel. US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Russian and Chinese opposition was because the resolution was authored by the United States. “Russia and China still could not bring themselves to condemn Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7th,” she said.

Fighting continued in various parts of the coastal enclave on Friday, including in and around Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital where Israel says it has killed more than 100 militants and detained more than 300.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, more than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 253 hostages seized in the surprise Hamas attack on October 7th. Israel says 134 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, though it is not known how many are alive.

The second Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan passed off without any major incidents on Friday.

In the West Bank, seven people were injured, one critically, when a Palestinian gunman opened fire on an Israeli minibus. The assailant fled to a forested area and exchanged fire with Israeli troops several times before he was eventually killed in a helicopter strike, some five hours after the minibus shooting.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem