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Israel's Smotrich urges 'complete destruction' of Gaza instead of truce talks

Far-right minister condemns indirect negotiations with Hamas and calls for their assassination across the globe
Israel's far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, enters the Old City of Jerusalem during the Israeli 'flags march', on 18 May 2023 (Hazem Bader / AFP)

Israel's far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for the "complete destruction" of the Gaza Strip as he hit out against truce talks between the government and Hamas.

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, Smotrich said negotiating with Hamas was irresponsible and members of the group should be killed instead.

"The time has come for the Mossad to return to doing what it was trained to do - to eliminate the heads of Hamas all over the world and not in negotiations that are conducted irresponsibly and harm Israel's security," he said.

"With Hamas from now on we should only talk with shells and bombs."

He said Israel needed to attack Rafah "as fast and as strongly as possible, and then continue with the strip until its complete destruction".

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Israeli media reported on Wednesday that a ground invasion of southern Rafah appeared imminent, with preparations being put in place to expel tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians who are crowded into the city. 

The incursion into Rafah - where over one million displaced Palestinians are sheltering in tents and makeshift camps - will happen "very soon," according to a report in the newspaper Israel Hayom.

The report stated that the decision to press ahead with the planned ground operation was taken after Hamas rejected the most recent Israeli proposal for a truce deal.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office and an Israeli military spokesperson's office did not immediately comment on the reports.

Israeli sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Israel had procured tens of thousands of tents to "evacuate" Palestinian civilians from Rafah over the coming weeks.

Palestinians have said that nowhere is safe from Israeli bombardment in the besieged Gaza Strip since Israel's war on Gaza began in October.

The Israeli military has consistently bombed so-called safe zones after it told Palestinians to evacuate.

More than 34,300 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed and over 77,200 people have been wounded in Israel's military campaign since 7 October.

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