As Israel continues its ground offensive in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that his country’s aim was not to capture Gaza, but to “militarize and radicalize” the Hamas-controlled territory. In an interview with CBS News, Netanyahu stressed that Israel’s goal is to “eliminate” the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas with “minimal civilian casualties.”
“We want overall military responsibility to prevent the re-emergence of terrorism. We do not want to take over. That is not our goal. But our goal is to make sure that what happens there is different. To achieve that Therefore, we need to demilitarize Gaza and de-radicalize Gaza,” the Prime Minister said.
Following Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel on October 7, Israel retaliated with ground attacks and airstrikes, killing more than 11,000 people, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. About 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly civilians. On Thursday, Israeli leaders claimed control of the northern part of Gaza, including Gaza City.
In the interview, Netanyahu stressed that removing Hamas would liberate the Palestinians and “give them a real future”. The Israeli PM stressed the need for a change in Palestinian leadership, saying “Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves, but no powers that threaten Israel. This means not only ensuring that Gaza “Demilitarized, but also that Gaza is free from radicalism.”
Also read: Israel military says Hamas tunnel found in Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital, UN halts aid to Palestine
Speaking on the raid on Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital by Israeli troops, Netanyahu claimed there were “strong indications” that Hamas militants were holding hostages inside the facility during the October 7 attack .
“We had strong indications that he was being held at 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 said. He said the government had intelligence about the hostages.
Israeli officials claimed that 237 people, including Israelis, foreign nationals and children, were being held captive in Gaza. According to an IANS report, Hamas has released four hostages, and a female soldier has been rescued by the Israeli army.
Israel has claimed that Hamas has a commanding center beneath the hospital, which they also use as their base. However, these allegations have been repeatedly denied by Hamas.
Netanyahu also mentioned that they were close to securing the release of the hostages. He was quoted as saying, “If we can get our hostages back we will have a temporary ceasefire. I don’t think going into any more detail would serve the purpose.”
However, he declined to say whether Israel would agree to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for hostages, saying it was “confidential”.