Israel’s Netanyahu vows Hamas, ‘axis of evil’ won’t stop war as thousands protest in Tel Aviv for him to resign

Israel will pursue its war against Hamas until victory and will not be stopped by anyone, including the world court, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a defiant speech, as the fighting in Gaza approached the 100-day mark.
Netanyahu spoke after the International Court of Justice at The Hague held two days of hearings on South Africa’s allegations that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians, a charge Israel has rejected as libellous and hypocritical. South Africa asked the court to order Israel to halt its blistering air and ground offensive in an interim step.

“No one will stop us, not The Hague, not the axis of evil and not anyone else,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks on Saturday evening, referring to Iran and its allied militias.

The case before the World Court is expected to go on for years, but a ruling on interim steps could come within weeks. Court rulings are binding but difficult to enforce. Netanyahu made clear that Israel would ignore orders to halt the fighting, potentially deepening its isolation.

South Africa accuses Israel of genocidal acts, demands end to Gaza campaign

Israel has been under growing international pressure to end the war, which has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians in Gaza and led to widespread suffering in the besieged enclave, but has so far been shielded by US diplomatic and military support.

Several thousand protesters in Tel Aviv have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing his government of not doing enough to bring home the hostages still held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

People also took to the streets against Netanyahu in other Israeli cities on Saturday evening, with some 1,000 protesting in the coastal towns of Haifa and Caesarea, according to Israeli media reports.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Washington, London, Paris, Rome, Milan and Dublin on Saturday to demand an end to the war. Protesters converging on the White House held aloft signs questioning President Joe Biden’s viability as a presidential candidate because of his staunch support for Israel during the war.
Pro-Palestinian protesters gather near the ICJ at The Hague on January 12 as judges hear a request by South Africa to order Israel to stop its military actions in Gaza. Photo: Reuters

Israel argues that ending the war means victory for Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007 and is bent on Israel’s destruction.

The war was triggered by a deadly October 7 attack in which Hamas and other militants killed some 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians. About 250 more were taken hostage, and while some have been released or confirmed dead, more than half are believed to still be in captivity. Sunday marks 100 days of fighting.

Fears of a wider conflagration have been palpable since the start of the war. New fronts quickly opened, with Iran-backed groups – Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria – carrying out a range of attacks. From the start, the US increased its military presence in the region to deter an escalation.
Following a Houthi campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, the US and Britain launched multiple air strikes against the rebels on Friday, and the US hit another site on Saturday.

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Meanwhile, Netanyahu and his army chief, Herzi Halevi, said they have no immediate plans to allow the return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza, the initial focus of Israel’s offensive. Fighting in the northern half has been scaled back, with forces now focusing on the southern city of Khan Younis, though combat continues in parts of the north.

Netanyahu said the issue had been raised by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit earlier this week. The Israeli leader said he told Blinken that “we will not return residents [to their homes] when there is fighting.”

At the same time, Netanyahu said Israel would eventually need to close what he said were breaches along Gaza’s border with Egypt. Over the years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border had constituted a major supply line for Gaza.

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However, the border area, particularly the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, is packed with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who had fled northern Gaza, and their presence would complicate any plans to widen Israel’s ground offensive.

“We will not end the war until we close this breach,” Netanyahu said Saturday, adding that the government has not yet decided how to do that.

Additional reporting by dpa

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