KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel will take “overall security responsibility” in Gaza indefinitely after its war with Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, the clearest indication yet that Israel plans to maintain control over the coastal enclave one month into a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives and leveled whole swaths of the territory.
In an interview with ABC News that aired late Monday, Netanyahu expressed openness to “little pauses” in the fighting to facilitate the delivery of aid to Gaza or the release of some of the more than 240 hostages seized by Hamas in its October 7 attack into Israel that triggered the war.
But he ruled out any general ceasefire without the release of all the hostages, and the White House said there was no agreement on US President Joe Biden’s call for a broader humanitarian pause after a phone call between the leaders.
The war has already come at a staggering cost, and Israel unleashed another wave of strikes across the territory on Tuesday. Entire city blocks have been reduced to rubble, and around 70% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, with many heeding Israeli orders to head to the southern part of the besieged territory, which is also being bombed.
Israeli troops have been battling Palestinian militants inside Gaza for over a week, and have succeeded in cutting the territory in half and encircling Gaza City. Food, medicine, fuel and water are running low, and United Nations-run schools-turned-shelters are overflowing.
The Palestinian death toll has surpassed 10,000, the Health Ministry of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said on Monday, including over 4,100 minors. More than 2,300 people are missing and believed to be buried under the rubble of destroyed buildings, the ministry said. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, and Israel says it has killed thousands of fighters.
About 1,400 people in Israel have died, mostly civilians killed in the October 7 incursion by Hamas. Israelis observed a moment of silence on Tuesday in memory of the victims. The 30th day is a milestone in Jewish mourning, and memorial events are planned in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
In southern Gaza, where Palestinians have been told to seek refuge, an Israeli airstrike destroyed several homes early Tuesday in the town of Khan Younis. First responders pulled five bodies — including three dead children — from the rubble, according to an Associated Press journalist at the scene.
AP video taken at a nearby hospital showed a woman desperately searching for her son and then crying and kissing him when she found him, half-naked and bloodied, but apparently without serious injuries. A girl sobbed next to a baby lying on a stretcher wrapped in a blanket, apparently dead.
Netanyahu told ABC News that Gaza should be governed by “those who don’t want to continue the way of Hamas,” without elaborating.
“I think Israel will, for an indefinite period, will have the overall security responsibility because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it. 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,” he said.
Israel withdrew troops and settlers in 2005 but kept control over Gaza’s airspace, coastline, population registry and border crossings, excepting one into Egypt. Hamas seized power from forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, confining his Palestinian Authority to parts of the occupied West Bank. Since then, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza to varying degrees.