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Israel Pushes Deeper Into Rafah, but Gaza Exit Plan Remains Unclear

WorldIsrael Pushes Deeper Into Rafah, but Gaza Exit Plan Remains Unclear

The Israeli military said on Friday that its forces had advanced into central Rafah, pushing even more deeply into the southern Gaza city despite an international backlash and pressure from allies to scale back the latest offensive and agree to a cease-fire.

Israeli special forces were engaging in “intelligence-based targeted raids” in central Rafah, the Israeli military said in a statement. It added that troops were performing “focused and low-intensity operations” in the city. On Wednesday, the military announced that it had established “operational control” over the border zone with Egypt, an eight-mile-long strip known as the Philadelphi Corridor on the outskirts of Rafah.

Commercially available satellite imagery taken by Planet Labs on Thursday showed that the Israeli military had set up positions in parts of central Rafah, while military vehicles and tanks could be seen as far as the outskirts of the Tel al-Sultan area in western Rafah.

As the fighting raged in Gaza, President Biden said Friday in Washington that it was time to end the war and bring about a cease-fire. “At this point, Hamas is no longer capable of carrying out another Oct. 7,” Mr. Biden said from the White House. “It’s time for this war to end, for the day after to begin.”

In a statement released after Mr. Biden’s comments, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said “the war will not end until all of its goals are achieved, including the return of all our abductees and the elimination of Hamas’s military and governmental capabilities.”

Despite nearly eight months of fighting, Israel has yet to accomplish its stated goals of toppling Hamas and bringing home the roughly 125 remaining hostages abducted during the Oct. 7 attack. Israeli officials have said that shutting down Hamas’s cross-border smuggling network and rooting out militants in Rafah will be key steps toward those goals.

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