Benjamin Netanyahu vows to invade Rafah 'with or without' a Hamas ceasefire deal

“There is a proposal on the table, and as we’ve said, no delays, no excuses. The time is now,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, Senior International Correspondent John Irvine reports

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press on with his offensive into Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah despite potential progress being made at ceasefire talks with Hamas.

Netanyahu's comments came hours before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to arrive in Israel to advance the truce talks - which appear to be one of the most serious rounds of negotiations between Israel and Hamas since the war began.

The deal is meant to free hostages, increase aid flow to the population and avert an Israeli offensive into Rafah and the potential harm to civilians there. An estimated 1.5 million people are reported to be seeking shelter in Hamas.

Netanyahu said Israel would enter Rafah, which Israel says is Hamas' last stronghold, regardless of whether a deal is struck.

“The idea that we will stop the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question," Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office.

“We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate Hamas' battalions there - with or without a deal, to achieve the total victory.”

Meanwhile, Blinken - who is on his seventh visit to the region since October 7 - said the "time is now" for an agreement.

“We are determined to get a cease-fire that brings the hostages home and to get it now, and the only reason that that wouldn’t be achieved is because of Hamas,” Blinken told Israel’s ceremonial President Isaac Herzog at a meeting in Tel Aviv.

“There is a proposal on the table, and as we’ve said, no delays, no excuses. The time is now,” he said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with the families and supporters of the hostages held by Hamas. Credit: AP

In Gaza, the Health Ministry said the bodies of 33 people killed by Israeli strikes have been brought to local hospitals over the past 24 hours.

It brings the overall Palestinian death toll from the Israel-Hamas war to at least 34,568, the ministry said.

The Israel-Hamas war was sparked by the October 7 raid in Israel in which militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages, Israel says the militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

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