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Israeli Military Poised to Enter Rafah, Hamas Keeps Dragging Out Hostage Talks

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Israel’s military is poised to enter into Rafah, the last major stronghold of Hamas in Gaza, without a deal for the release of the hostages. But Hamas still wants to continue negotiations to end the war.     

Israeli troops and tanks continue to gather near Rafah for the expected military operation.  Rafah is where many believe the leaders of Hamas, including Yahya Sinwar, are hiding as well as the remaining battalions of Hamas fighters.  It’s also thought to be the location of the last remaining hostages. 

While Hamas seems to reject the latest ceasefire offer, it apparently wants negotiations to continue, a tactic that could be intended to forestall the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Rafah invasion. 

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says they will move ahead with their plans for an assault.

“We will do what is necessary in order to win and overcome our enemies, including in Rafah, in order to secure our future,” Netanyahu pledged.

A top Hamas demand is that Israel ends the war against the terrorist group and that all Israeli troops leave the Gaza Strip.  But Netanyahu told visiting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that a deal to end the war without defeating Hamas is a non-starter. 

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Meanwhile, along the northern border, negotiations to broker a peace deal between Hezbollah and Israel appear stalled. In light of that, the Israeli military's Chief-of-Staff Herzi Halevi told commanders Israel is getting ready for an attack on Hezbollah.

“You are doing an excellent job of operational defense in the north, and we are preparing for an offensive in the north,” Halevi said.

Samir Geagea – a prominent Christian politician in Lebanon – says Hezbollah's constant attacks on Israel since October 7th, are hurting Lebanon more than Israel. The tit-for-tat shelling and bombings have killed 22 Israelis, while the death toll is much higher in Lebanon itself – more than 350. Geagea says Hezbollah should pull all its militia forces away from the Lebanese border with Israel. 

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In a major economic development, Israel’s foreign minister – Israel Katz – slammed Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after Turkey announced it’s stopping all trade with Israel and banning all imports and exports because of the war in Gaza. Katz said this is how a dictator behaves by ignoring international trade agreements.  Turkey is a top trading partner with Israel.

Despite some international opposition to Israel, Christians are showing they stand by the Jewish state this weekend with what's called Solidarity Sunday.  As part of that, Bishop Robert Stearns' group Eagles' Wings is bringing Israeli survivors of October 7th to talk to American church congregations.

“So American Christians are going to have not only the opportunity but the responsibility this coming Sunday, Solidarity Sunday, to hear from these survivors firsthand,” Stearns said.

Stearns says America faces the same battle as Israel. 

“The battle that Israel is facing is a battle for modern, western, democratic values and all of us have to wake up and understand, they’re on the front lines but this battle affects all of us,” he added. 

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