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Israel’s goal in Rafah is to exterminate Hamas, release hostages — defense minister

He said that the Israeli government must "raise these achievements to a new level in the Gaza Strip and the Middle East"

TEL AVIV, May 26. /TASS/. Israel’s goal in the Gaza Strip is to exterminate the Hamas radical Palestinian movement and release hostages held by the radicals, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.

"Our goals in the Gaza Strip are becoming especially clear here, in Rafah, and they are to uproot Hamas, release hostages and preserve the freedom of action. As for the problem of hostages, we are sparing no effort and will continue doing this both be means of maneuvers and through agreements," he said at a meeting with Israeli soldiers.

He said that the job for the Israeli soldiers is to "exterminate Hamas and win this war," while the Israeli government must "raise these achievements to a new level in the Gaza Strip and the Middle East." "These problems are interlinked," he added.

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Gallant took part in an operational meeting on the situation in Rafah. He "was informed about the operations on the ground and underground, as well as about operations in other areas geared to eliminate Hamas battalions," it said, adding that Deputy Chief of the General Staff Amir Baram and commanders of the 162nd division operating in the southern Gaza Strip took part in the meeting.

Hamas keeps on demanding IDF withdrawal from Gaza, Netanyahu is against

Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar keeps on demanding the end of Israel’s operation and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is categorically against this, the office of the Israeli prime minister said.

"Sinwar continues to demand the end of the war, the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip and leaving Hamas in place, so that it will be able too carry out the atrocities of October 7 again and again," it said. "Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly opposes this."

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly given the negotiating team a broad mandate for the release of our hostages" during indirect talks on the hostage release deal, it said.

"Briefings from within the negotiating team only harden Hamas's position, harm the families and delay the release of our hostages," it added.

Tensions flared up again in the Middle East on October 7 after militants from the Gaza Strip-based radical Palestinian group Hamas launched a surprise incursion on Israeli territory, killing many Israeli kibbutz residents living near the Gaza border and abducting more than 240 Israelis, including women, children and the elderly. Israel declared a total blockade of the Gaza Strip and launched bombardments of the enclave and some areas in Lebanon and Syria, as well as a ground operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Clashes are also reported in the West Bank.

In late November 2023, Hamas announced an agreement with Israel, which was brokered by Egypt and Qatar, on a four-day humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip, which took effect on November 24. The sides extended the ceasefire several times but on the morning of December 1 the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that Hamas had violated the truce in Gaza and opened fire on Israeli territory, thus prompting the IDF to resume combat operations in the Gaza Strip. According to the Israeli side, as many as 110 hostages were released during this period.