Israel does not seek to occupy Gaza, but ‘credible force’ needed -Netanyahu

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JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday his country does not seek to conquer, occupy or govern Gaza after its war against Hamas.

But he said a “credible force” would be needed to enter the Palestinian enclave if necessary to prevent the emergence of militant threats.

Mr Netanyahu this week suggested that Israel would be responsible for Gaza’s security indefinitely.

Those comments drew pushback from Israel’s main ally, the United States.

Washington has said it would oppose Israeli post-war occupation of Gaza.

Israel has waged a bombing campaign to destroy the enclave’s Hamas rulers since Oct 7. That is when Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel and killed some 1,400 people.

The Israeli retaliatory action in Gaza has killed more than 10,500 people.

Speaking to US television’s Fox News on Thursday, Mr Netanyahu said: “We don’t seek to conquer Gaza, we don’t seek to occupy Gaza, and we don’t seek to govern Gaza.”

Mr Netanyahu said a civilian government would need to take shape in Gaza but that Israel would make sure an attack like Oct 7 does not happen again.

“So, we have to have a credible force that, if necessary, will enter Gaza and kill the killers. Because that’s what will prevent the re-emergence of a Hamas-like entity,” Mr Netanyahu said.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has created a humanitarian catastrophe where basic supplies have run out and wounded people are overwhelming a fragile medical system.

US officials say the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, should return to govern Gaza after the war. Hamas seized control of Gaza from the PA forces of President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

Top Palestinian officials, including Mr Abbas, say a PA return to Gaza must be accompanied by a political solution that ends Israel’s occupation of territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Mr Netanyahu said that after the war, “what we have to see is Gaza demilitarised, deradicalised and rebuilt.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told PBS this week the PA would not return to Gaza “on the back of an Israeli tank”. REUTERS

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