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IDF spokesman: “Hamas is rooted in the hearts of the people”

IDF spokesman: “Hamas is rooted in the hearts of the people”
IDF spokesman: “Hamas is rooted in the hearts of the people”

Netanyahu wants to wipe out Hamas. But he can no longer rely on the support of his war cabinet. Meanwhile, the situation on the border with Lebanon continues to escalate.

Army spokesman Daniel Hagari has questioned the Israeli government’s promise to completely destroy the radical Islamic Palestinian organization Hamas. “Hamas is an ideology, we cannot eliminate an ideology,” Hagari told Channel 13 on Wednesday. “Hamas is an idea, it is a party. It is rooted in the hearts of the people. Anyone who thinks we can eliminate Hamas is mistaken.”

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately rejected the comments. “The political cabinet and the security cabinet led by Prime Minister Netanyahu have set the destruction of Hamas’ military and government capabilities as one of the goals of the war,” the statement said. The Israeli army is “naturally committed” to this goal. The military emphasized in a statement on the online service Telegram that Hagari’s comments referred to the “ideology” of Hamas.

Frustration and anger in Netanyahu’s war cabinet

The army spokesman’s words reflected the military leadership’s growing frustration over the failure of the Netanyahu government to develop a post-war alternative to Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip, wrote the New York Times. In the TV interview, army spokesman Hagari called on the Israeli government to think about what should come after Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “If we don’t offer an alternative, we will end up with Hamas,” said the Israeli army spokesman.

A month ago, Israeli Defense Minister Joav Galant sharply criticized his country’s indecision on the question of who should rule Gaza after the war. He also called for a political alternative to Hamas rule. Otherwise, only two negative options remained: continued Hamas rule or Israeli military rule.

Former General Benny Gantz recently left the war cabinet because the government had not developed a plan for a post-war order in the Gaza Strip. To date, Netanyahu has not presented such a plan – probably also in order not to offend his ultra-right coalition partners, on whom his political survival depends. They are calling for the re-establishment of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu rejects this. The USA, as Israel’s most important ally, wants the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, to regain control of the Gaza Strip – and thus also to promote a two-state solution as a comprehensive approach to pacifying the Middle East. But Netanyahu has so far rejected this too. Critics accuse him of allowing the sealed-off coastal area to sink into chaos due to the lack of a clear plan for stabilizing and administering the Gaza Strip. Israel’s army is in danger of being drawn into an endless guerrilla war by Hamas.

Hostage negotiations with Hamas stalled

Israel’s Chief of Staff Halevi recently complained that, due to a lack of a political strategy, it is necessary to keep fighting in places that the army had actually previously taken, warning of a “Sisyphean task” according to media reports. His military spokesman Hagari also warned in the Channel 13 interview that it would not be possible to free all the hostages still held in the Gaza Strip through army operations. According to recent information from its spokesman Osama Hamdan, Hamas does not know how many of the approximately 120 hostages believed to be in Gaza are still alive. It is feared that the majority of them are dead.

The Wall Street Journal reported early Thursday, citing mediators in the indirect hostage negotiations and a US official familiar with US intelligence information, that the number of hostages still alive could be as low as 50. This estimate is based in part on Israeli intelligence information. Efforts have been underway for months to use indirect negotiations to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire and Hamas to release the Israeli hostages – so far without success.

Attacks in the border area with Lebanon – fear of further escalation

Meanwhile, fears of another conflict in the Middle East are growing. Both sides are increasing their threats between Israel and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah stressed his Shiite militia’s readiness to fight on Wednesday evening. “If they force a war on Lebanon, the resistance will strike back without limits,” he said in a public speech. After Hezbollah published alleged aerial photographs of northern Israel, Israel’s Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi played down concerns about the capabilities of its own military. “We have infinitely greater capabilities, of which I believe the enemy knows only a few,” he said, according to a statement on Wednesday evening. The army is preparing for Hezbollah’s capabilities.

Israel’s military had previously said it had approved “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon,” thereby fueling fears of an escalation. Since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Islamist organization Hamas, which is allied with the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, there have been daily military confrontations between the Israeli army and Hezbollah in the border region between Israel and Lebanon. The situation has recently escalated significantly. According to Lebanese sources, at least three Hezbollah members were killed in an Israeli attack in southern Lebanon on Wednesday.

Israel’s military confirmed the attack. Hezbollah, in turn, claimed responsibility for an attack on Israeli soldiers in Metulla in northern Israel. The Israeli military confirmed that a drone from Lebanon had crashed in the area around Metulla. There were no injuries. Although Israel and the pro-Iranian Shiite militia have so far been hesitant to escalate their hostilities into a larger conflict, both sides have increasingly signaled their intention to expand their fight, wrote the Wall Street Journal.

The approval of plans for an offensive by the Israeli army is “part of the effort to send a message to Hezbollah to limit its activities and show its willingness to move towards some kind of solution,” the newspaper quoted Jossi Kuperwasser, former head of the research department of the Israeli military intelligence service, as saying. Israel wants to use military and diplomatic pressure to get Hezbollah to withdraw behind the Litani River, 30 kilometers from the border – as stipulated in a UN resolution from 2006. The pro-Iranian Shiite militia is considered to be significantly more powerful than Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Source: Stern

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