Netanyahu will undergo hernia surgery amid growing pressure on his government

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will undergo surgery Sunday night to treat a hernia, his office said in a statement.

The operation comes at a time when Netanyahu is under growing pressure as the war in Gaza drags on and international calls for a ceasefire grow louder.

Mr Netanyahu's office said on Sunday that he had been diagnosed with a hernia during a “routine examination” on Saturday evening. The prime minister has decided, in consultation with his doctors, to undergo an operation, a statement said, adding that it will take place on Sunday evening “under total anaesthesia”.

“Minister of Justice Yariv Levin will temporarily assume his duties,” the statement said. Levin is a longtime supporter of the prime minister's Likud party.

Netanyahu – who also underwent hernia surgery in 2013 – has come under growing criticism both on the world stage and at home for the way Israel is prosecuting the war in the Gaza Strip. Key allies such as the United States have criticized the high number of civilian casualties and made urgent calls for Israel to allow more aid into the enclave.

In Israel, protesters called on Netanyahu to prioritize the release of hostages held in Gaza and reach a ceasefire agreement. Israel's war cabinet is expected to meet later Sunday to discuss issues related to the latest ceasefire negotiations; It was not immediately clear whether Netanyahu would be able to attend.

Netanyahu also faces harsh criticism from his far-right coalition partners for any indication of hesitation in the war against Hamas or the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Hours before the scheduled surgery, Netanyahu met in Jerusalem with the families of soldiers held captive in Gaza.

He also held an evening news conference, looking pale as he responded to criticism that he had not done enough to bring the hostages home.

“I have done everything in my power, and will continue to do everything, to secure their release,” he said, adding that “those who say I am not doing enough to secure the release of our hostages are wrong and misguided.” .

Answering questions for nearly 20 minutes, Netanyahu also reiterated that Israeli forces would move into Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than a million people have sought refuge. American officials have said that invading Rafah would create a humanitarian disaster and that Israel must have a detailed plan to protect, shelter and feed civilians there.

“We are now working to address the issue of evacuating the civilian population and providing humanitarian aid,” Netanyahu said. “This is necessary and vital, and it will be done.”

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