As Israel continues its ground assault in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country’s objective was not to occupy Gaza but to “demilitarise and deradicalise” the Hamas-controlled enclave. In an interview with CBS News, Netanyahu asserted that Israel was aiming to “wipe out” Palestinian militant outfit Hamas with “minimal civilian casualties”.
“We seek overall military responsibility to prevent the re-emergence of terror. We’re not seeking to occupy. That’s not our goal. But our goal is to ensure that what happens there is different. To achieve that, we need to demilitarise Gaza and de-radicalise Gaza,” the Prime Minister said.
Following the surprise attack by Hamas in Israel on October 7, Israel has retaliated with ground assault and airstrikes, killing more than 11,000 people, according to the Gaza health ministry. Around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel. On Thursday, Israeli leaders claimed to have control of the northern part of Gaza, including Gaza City.
In the interview, Netanyahu underscored that removing Hamas would liberate Palestinians and “give them a real future”. The Israeli PM asserted the need for a change in Palestinian leadership, stating, “Let the Palestinians have all the powers to govern themselves, but none of the powers to threaten Israel. This means not only ensuring that Gaza is demilitarised but also that Gaza is deradicalised.”
Speaking on the raid at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza by Israeli soldiers, Netanyahu claimed that there were “strong indications” that Hamas militants were holding hostages it captured during the October 7 attack inside the facility.
“We had strong indications that they were held in Shifa Hospital, which is one of the reasons we entered the hospital,” he told CBS News. “If they were there, they were taken out,” the Prime Minister added, noting that the government had intelligence about the hostages.
Israeli authorities have claimed that 237 people, including Israelis, foreign nationals, and children, were being held captive in Gaza. As per an IANS report, Hamas has released four hostages, and one woman soldier was rescued by the Israeli military.
Israel has claimed that Hamas has a commanding centre underneath the hospital, which they also use as their base. However, these allegations have been repeatedly denied by Hamas.
Netanyahu also mentioned that they were closer to securing the release of hostages. “We’ll have a temporary ceasefire if we can get our hostages back. I don’t think it serves that purpose for me to elaborate further on that,” he was quoted as saying.
However, he declined to say whether Israel would agree to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for hostages, stating that it was “confidential”.