Gantz: Israel Will Launch Assault on Rafah by Ramadan If Hostages Not Released

Rafah is packed with 1.5 million Palestinians

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, threatened on Sunday that Israel will launch an assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah if Hamas does not release the remaining Israeli hostages by Ramadan, which begins on March 10 this year.

“The world must know, and Hamas leaders must know — if by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will continue to the Rafah area,” Gantz told a gathering of Jewish American organizations in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Rafah has a pre-war population of 275,000 and is now packed with 1.5 million people as the city has become a final refuge for Palestinians who fled other areas of Gaza. Israeli airstrikes have been hitting Rafah, but Israel has yet to launch a full-scale invasion.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been vowing to follow through on his plans to invade Rafah, claiming it’s necessary to defeat Hamas, but Gantz’s comments are the first indication of a timeline on when the assault might start.

“To those saying the price is too high, I say this very clearly: Hamas has a choice — they can surrender, release the hostages, and the citizens of Gaza will be able to celebrate the holy holiday of Ramadan,” Gantz said.

Gantz’s comments came after Netanyahu vetoed further hostage deal talks, and there’s virtually no chance Hamas would release the remaining Israeli captives without some sort of agreement.

The US has given Israel the green light to attack Rafah despite the risk of a huge number of civilian casualties. Publicly, US officials are saying Israel must come up with a plan to protect civilians in the city, but POLITICO reported that the US will not impose any consequences if it doesn’t.

Gantz insisted Israel will attack Rafah “in a coordinated manner, facilitating the evacuation of civilians in dialogue with our American and Egyptian partners to minimize civilian casualties.” But it’s unclear where the Palestinian civilians could go, and Israel has bombed so-called “safe zones” over the past few months.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Egypt is building a walled camp in the Sinai desert to prepare for an influx of Palestinians, signaling Cairo is softening on its position that it won’t allow refugees in its territory. Egyptian officials told the Journal that the camp could hold up to 100,000 people, but they would like to limit it to 50,000 to 60,000.

As Israel is preparing to invade Rafah, the US is preparing to send a new shipment of bombs to support the mass killing of Palestinians. Since October 7, the Israeli onslaught has killed over 29,000 Palestinians, and more than 69,000 have been wounded. About two-thirds of the casualties are women and children.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.