Israel Sets Deadline for Hamas: Release Hostages or Face Offensive in Gaza

Israel Sets Deadline for Hamas: Release Hostages or Face Offensive in Gaza

Israel's Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, has issued a stark warning to Hamas, setting a deadline for the release of all hostages held in Gaza. Gantz stated that unless the hostages are freed by March 10th, Israel will launch an offensive in Rafah, marking the first time Israel has specified a timeline for potential military action in the overcrowded southern city of Gaza.

The announcement comes amidst growing international opposition to a potential offensive in Rafah, where approximately 1.5 million Palestinians reside. The United Nations' public health agency reported that a major Gaza hospital ceased functioning following an Israeli raid, further escalating tensions.

Gantz emphasized that Israel would act in a coordinated manner to minimize civilian casualties, including facilitating civilian evacuation in collaboration with American and Egyptian partners. He also referenced Egypt, hinting at the possibility of Palestinians seeking shelter across the border.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reaffirmed his commitment to launching a ground assault on Rafah if necessary to eliminate Hamas gunmen. However, this stance has drawn condemnation from Egypt and other Arab nations, who warn of dire consequences if Israel proceeds with its plans.

Efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas have been ongoing in Cairo, with Qatari mediators reporting limited progress. Netanyahu attributed the lack of progress to Hamas's "delusional" demands, while Hamas blamed Israel for the stalemate.

Despite diplomatic efforts, the situation remains tense, with both sides preparing for potential escalation as the deadline approaches.

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