New Delhi, Nov 21 (IANS) Israel is not looking to occupy Gaza after its ongoing war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas ends, an Israeli government official said on Tuesday.
“We don’t want to occupy Gaza. We don’t want to rule over Gaza,” Mark Regev, a senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told an online media briefing on the war.
“We insist, however, that Gaza must be demilitarised.”
The war started after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people in massacres across towns and villages in the country’s south, and firing rockets into Israel.
What the world SHOULD be asking... https://t.co/ZRabomEnvc— Mark Regev (@MarkRegev) November 21, 2023
More than 12,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes and the siege of the coastal enclave, according to the media in the Middle East, citing the Hamas-run health ministry.
Regev said a Palestinian government could be formed in the future after Hamas is removed from the enclave.
“Hamas has brought bloodshed and impoverishment to the people of Gaza.”
Today, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah said something utterly preposterous. It denied that it was Hamas that carried out the horrible massacre at the nature festival near Gaza. It actually accused Israel of carrying out that massacre. This is a complete reversal of truth… pic.twitter.com/3omrplNDP1— Benjamin Netanyahu - בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) November 19, 2023
Israel’s international partners will want to rebuild Gaza, Regev said, adding that Arab countries will be part of the rebuilding process.
“Hamas has no friends in the Arab world other than Qatar,” he said of the country where Hamas’ leadership reportedly lives.
Israel’s victory would be a win for those seeking peace in the region, Regev added.
Even as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intensify their operations in Gaza after 46 days of the war, the Israeli government has not stated clearly its plan for the enclave once the fighting stops.
While the IDF pursues its goal of destroying Hamas infrastructure in Gaza, as it describes the military operations, Israel is engaged in negotiations to free some 238 hostages, including children and the elderly, from Hamas captivity.
And, if the backroom talks, which also involve Qatar and the United States, lead to an agreement on the release of hostages, then Israel would likely agree to a short pause.
“We will agree to a temporary ceasefire if our hostages are released,” Regev said.
He said international humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross were not allowed by Hamas to visit the hostages to assess their wellbeing.
When asked if Israel has proof of life of the hostages, Regev said that “no information on their condition” is available but that Israel has gathered its own intelligence.
The hostages should be released unconditionally, he said.
So far, there is no indication that Israel would consider any deal whereby the hostages are swapped for Palestinian prisoners.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported earlier that the families of some of the hostages have urged Netanyahu to agree to such an exchange.