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Major Gaza offensives to end soon, but not the war: Netanyahu

The Israeli military may soon scale back operations in the Gaza Strip, but that doesn’t mean its brutal, nearly nine-month military campaign will be coming to an end any time soon, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In an interview with Israeli media on 23 June, Netanyahu said his military’s ground invasion of Rafah, which began on 6 May, will soon draw to a close and would be the last major offensive of the war. That, however, “doesn't mean that the war is about to end”, Netanyahu added.

Israeli forces will be redeployed to the northern border with Lebanon, where skirmishes with the Iran-aligned Lebanese political party and militant group Hezbollah have been escalating, increasing fears of a wider regional war. But the Israeli military will also continue “mowing the grass” in Gaza “all the time” with the aim of destroying Hamas, according to Netanyahu.

In the interview, the Israeli prime minister rejected a proposal for a phased plan that would result in a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, which had been backed by the US and the UN Security Council.

Israel’s invasion of Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, has displaced over one million Palestinians, many of whom had already been forced to flee multiple times. It has also ground already beleaguered humanitarian aid operations to a near standstill. An already dire, man-made hunger crisis has been growing worse, taking a particularly heavy toll on children.

Overall, children account for around 40% of the casualties from Israel’s military campaign, according to health officials in Gaza. Over 37,000 Palestinians have been killed, including more than 15,000 children. At least another 10,000 people are missing and presumed dead under the rubble of destroyed buildings. Save the Children estimates that more than 5,000 of these are children.

A new report from the NGO highlights the steep toll Israel’s military campaign has taken on children in Gaza. In addition to those killed and missing, others have been maimed beyond recognition, the bodies of children have been found in mass graves, an unknown number have been detained and disappeared, and more than 17,000 have been orphaned or separated from their families, according to the report. 

For more on the devastating situation in Gaza, take a look at our recent coverage  

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