Israel has suggested it could keep troops in the Palestinian enclave for an “indefinite period”
The White House has sounded alarms over the possible “reoccupation” of Gaza by Israel, after the country’s leader indicated Israeli forces would handle “overall security responsibility” in the area following the conflict with Hamas.
Asked to weigh in on the long-term plans for Gaza during an interview with CNN on Tuesday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby urged Israel to reconsider a lengthy military deployment.
“The president still believes that a reoccupation of Gaza by Israeli forces is not good. It’s not good for Israel; not good for the Israeli people,” he said without elaborating.
“One of the conversations that Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken has been having in the region is what does post-conflict Gaza look like?” the spokesman added “What does governance look like in Gaza? Because whatever it is it can’t be what it was on October 6. It can’t be Hamas.”
The warning comes just one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ABC News that his country would have to take over the “security responsibility” in Gaza for an “indefinite period” after the current war with Hamas.
Though the PM did not share details about the plans for the enclave, his comments appear to contradict statements by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who previously stressed that Israeli troops must not be responsible for “day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip.”
Netanyahu adviser Mark Regev later told CNN that Israel is “not talking about any sort of ongoing occupation of the Gaza Strip.” While he explained there would be an Israeli “security presence” in the area, he said “that doesn’t mean that Israel is there to govern the Gazans.”
The White House has vocally supported Israel’s military action in Gaza, but voiced skepticism over new occupation of the territory, with President Joe Biden saying the decision would be a “big mistake.” Asked who should govern the area at an earlier press briefing, Kirby said officials “don’t have all the answers to that.”
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.