Israel “cannot, and will not, succumb” to international pressure to stop its military campaign in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a government meeting Sunday, amid growing U.S. frustrations over his government’s conduct of the war.

“In the international community, there are those who are trying to stop the war now, before all of its goals have been achieved,” he said. “They are doing so by means of an effort to bring about elections now, at the height of the war. They are doing this because they know that elections now will halt the war and paralyze the country for at least six months.

“If we stop the war now, before all of its goals are achieved, this means that Israel will have lost the war, and this we will not allow,” Netanyahu continued.

His comments came in response to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) — the highest-ranking Jewish official in the United States and a staunch ally of Israel — saying Thursday that Israel risks becoming a “pariah” under Netanyahu and calling for new elections. President Biden later praised Schumer for a “good speech.”

Schumer’s comments were “totally inappropriate,” Netanyahu told CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding, “We are not a banana republic.”

Netanyahu also promised Sunday to press on with his military’s plan to attack Rafah, the southern Gazan city where over half of Gaza’s population is sheltering.

“We will operate in Rafah,” Netanyahu said. He said it was the “only way” to “eliminate” Hamas and to free the remaining hostages — the country’s two stated goals for its war in Gaza.

Israel’s military said last week it intends to direct a “significant” portion of Rafah’s population of 1.5 million toward “humanitarian islands” in central Gaza ahead of the offensive, which Biden has warned would cross a “red line.”

On Sunday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterated on ABC’s “This Week” that the U.S. would not support a Rafah operation “unless or until [Israel] can accommodate the 1.5 million refugees that are there and preserve their safety and security.”

Aid groups are also pleading for restraint. On Saturday, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he was “gravely concerned” about Israel’s plan to attack Rafah and appealed to Israel to call off the operation.

In Tel Aviv, meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned after a meeting with Netanyahu on Sunday that “we cannot stand by and watch Palestinians risk starvation,” the latest Israeli ally to call for increasing the flow of aid to Gaza. The conditions of distribution must be “urgently, massively improved,” Scholz said, adding that “we need a hostage deal with a longer-lasting cease-fire.”

Humanitarian agencies say the besieged enclave is teetering on the brink of famine, and they are calling for Israel to facilitate increased aid deliveries and open more access points into the territory. One-third of children under age 2 are now acutely malnourished in northern Gaza, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said Saturday, adding that malnutrition among children is reaching “unprecedented” levels.

Here’s what else to know

Israel’s war cabinet and security cabinet discussed Israel’s response to Hamas’s cease-fire and hostage-release proposal on Sunday evening, according to an Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. An Israeli delegation will travel to Qatar to continue negotiating a hostage deal, Netanyahu’s office said.

A second ship carrying 240 tons of food aid, as well as machinery, is preparing to depart for Gaza from the port of Larnaca, Cyprus, according to World Central Kitchen, the U.S. nonprofit founded by celebrity chef José Andrés. A first shipment carrying nearly 200 tons of food aid arrived in Gaza on Saturday and is now being “readied” for distribution, the organization said.

At least 31,645 people have been killed and 73,676 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and says that 249 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operation in Gaza.

The first pieces of the United States’ planned floating dock off Gaza’s coast are en route, Kirby told ABC, adding that it will take roughly six to eight weeks for all parts to arrive and be assembled. “We are working with partners in the region to figure out the details of how the material will be secured on and off the floating dock,” he said, “and of course, how it will be distributed inside Gaza.”

Lior Soroka and Peter Jamison contributed to this report.





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