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Netanyahu says Israel will push on with Gaza offensive, including in Rafah

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will push on with its offensive against Hamas, including into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, despite growing international pressure to stop, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas after its fighters attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting 253, according to Israeli tallies. More than 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza during Israel's subsequent offensive, Palestinian health authorities estimate, prompting worldwide criticism and condemnation.

"There is international pressure and it's growing, but particularly when the international pressure rises, we must close ranks, we need to stand together against the attempts to stop the war," he said.

About 1.5 million people are estimated to be crammed into Rafah, on the southernmost fringe of the enclave close to the border with Egypt, most of them having fled their homes further north to escape Israel's military onslaught.

Addressing a graduation ceremony at a training school for Israeli army officers, Netanyahu also said Israel must push back against a "calculated attempt" to blame it for Hamas' crimes.

He added that Israel would operate throughout Gaza, "including Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold".

"Whoever tells us not to act in Rafah is telling us to lose the war and that will not happen," Netanyahu said.

(Reporting by Emily Rose and Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Gareth Jones)