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Netanyahu vows to ‘fight with fingernails’ after Biden's arms supply warning

Israeli prime minister says his country can 'stand alone' in the war on Gaza as his forces enter Rafah
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on 5 May.(afp)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on 5 May (AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is ready to “stand alone” and “fight with fingernails” in Gaza, rebuffing a US warning that arms supplies would be withheld if a planned large-scale operation in the southern city of Rafah is carried out.

"If we must, we shall fight with our fingernails. But we have much more than our fingernails, and with that strength of spirit, with God’s help, together we shall be victorious," he said.

Dismissing the US threat, Netanyahu also referred to the 1948 war that created Israel, saying that it was “victorious” despite being fought by a “few against the many…and did not have weapons”.

Yoav Gallant, Israeli defence minister, echoed Netanyahu’s remarks, saying that "enemies as well as ... best of friends" should know that Israel "cannot be subdued".

"We will stand strong, we will achieve our goals," Gallant said.

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On Monday evening, Israel started an invasion of Rafah, seizing the border crossing that links Gaza with Egypt. The UN says that more than 110,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah since then.

US President Joe Biden had urged Israel not to carry out its operation in Rafah, the most crowded part in southern Gaza, where over a million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge from Israeli attacks.

He said Washington will stop supplying Israel, a close ally, with arms if it carried on with plans to invade Rafah.

"If they go into Rafah, I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah," he said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.

The US has already put on hold the supply of 1,800 2,000lb (907kg) bombs and 1,700 500lb bombs to Israel over fears they could be used on Rafah.

Biden also told CNN the US would suspend further supplies of artillery shells and other arms.

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US national security spokesman John Kirby said Biden doesn’t think that “smashing into Rafah” would achieve Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas.

In reaction, Israel’s senior military spokesperson, Daniel Hagari, has downplayed the US warnings.

“The army has munitions for the missions it plans and for the missions in Rafah too… We have what we need,” he said.

Reacting to Biden’s warnings also, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir posted on X a heart emoji between"Hamas" and "Biden".

More than a million Palestinians headed to the southern city after Israel ordered them to move to the south, telling them it is a "safe" area. Rafah has been bombed repeatedly by Israel over recent weeks, with strikes intensifying since Monday.

The Israeli operation on Monday came shortly after Hamas made a surprise announcement that it accepted a ceasefire agreement proposed by Qatar and Egypt.

After Hamas accepted the ceasefire proposal, the United Nations and several countries in the region welcomed the decision and called on Israel to reciprocate and accept a cessation of the fighting. 

However Israel rejected the deal and launched the Rafah offensive.

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