Washington had warned that a new “occupation” of the Palestinian enclave would be a “big mistake”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country will have to manage “overall security” in Gaza for an “indefinite” period of time after the current war with Hamas ends.
Speaking to ABC News for an interview published on Monday, Netanyahu was asked about Israel’s long-term plans for the territory should it succeed in dismantling Hamas, suggesting the need for a lengthy deployment.
“I think Israel will, for an indefinite period, have the overall security responsibility [in Gaza] because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it,” he said.
“When we don’t have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn’t imagine.”
The comments appear to contradict past statements from senior Israeli officials.
In announcing a major ground assault on the Palestinian enclave last month, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant emphasized that Israeli troops must not be responsible for “day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip.”
While the official said Israel would establish a new “security reality” in the area after the current war, he suggested it would seek to hand off post-conflict governance to a third party.
Even while vocally supporting Israel’s military operation against Hamas, Washington has warned of the perils of another Gaza occupation. During a recent interview with CBS, President Joe Biden said the move would be a “big mistake.”
“It would be a mistake… for Israel to occupy… Gaza again,” he said. “But going in… but taking out the extremists, the Hezbollah is up north but Hamas down south, is a necessary requirement.”
Israel first occupied Gaza during the 1967 Six-Day War with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, and only withdrew its troops and settlers nearly 40 years later. It has maintained a tight blockade over the enclave in the years since, and has launched periodic bombing campaigns against Hamas since the group took control of Gaza in 2006.
The latest round of fighting erupted last month on the heels of a Hamas terrorist attack which killed around 1,400 Israelis. The IDF has launched weeks of retaliatory airstrikes and gradually escalated a ground attack on Gaza, leaving more than 10,000 Palestinians dead, according to local officials.