Defying int'l calls for humanitarian ceasefire: Israeli PM & war cabinet ministers say war will intensify

AFP , Ahram Online , Saturday 28 Oct 2023

In a press conference on Saturday evening, as the Israeli army continued relentless airstrikes on 2.3 million Palestinians under its all-out blockade for three weeks straight, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said: "The war in the Gaza Strip will be difficult and we will not retreat and we will destroy Hamas."

Israel war cabinet
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), defense minister Yoav Gallant (C) and opposition leader Benny Gantz address a press conference on the war in Gaza, on Saturday, October 28, 2023. Youtube screenshot


"We will do all that we can to ensure the return of our hostages," said Netanyahu.

"Our goals are clear: free the hostages and destroy the capabilities of Hamas."

"The ground invasion could free the hostages," he added.  

Netanyahu said that defeating Hamas was an "existential test" for Israel, charging that 90 percent of the group's military budget came from Iran.

"We must defeat Hamas because the test is an existential test for us," he added.

"Iran supports Hamas. I think that 90 percent of Hamas's military budget comes from Iran. It funds, it organizes, it directs it."

Meanwhile, Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said: "We hit Hamas with brute force in a battle that is very different from all previous battles." 

"We have no interest in expanding the war but we are ready on all fronts," said Gallant.

Speaking after Gallant, Benny Gantz, the former Israeli defense minister and minister-without-portfolio in the current Israeli war, said there will be no "pause" in the Israeli war on Hamas.

"The blood of those terrorists who attacked Israel is a free game for us," Gantz said.

Gantz thanked the United States for its unconditional support to Israel in its war against Hamas.

The United Nations warned thousands more civilians could die as Israel said its forces were still operating inside Gaza more than 24 hours after entering the Gaza Strip.

Israel unleashed its bombing campaign after Hamas fighters stormed across the Gaza border on 7 October, killing 1,400 people and seizing more than 220 captives, according to Israeli officials.

Immediately after, Israel launched an unprecedented war and blockade on 2.3 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands on the verge of starvation. 

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said Israeli strikes had since killed 7,703 people, mainly civilians, with more than 3,500 of them children.

24/7 Israeli airstrikes have destroyed more than half of all residential units in the Gaza Strip, leaving more than 2/3 of the Palestinians in the strip without shelter.

The conflict is the fifth and deadliest in Gaza since Israel unilaterally withdrew troops and settlers from the Palestinian territory in 2005 but maintained a siege of the strip on all fronts.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk warned of "the possibly catastrophic consequences of large-scale ground operations in Gaza", saying "thousands more civilians" could die.

On Friday, the UNRWA warned that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are facing starvation due to the complete Israeli blockade on all food, water, and fuel supplies to the strip.

Israel has refused to allow humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinians in the strip through the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, ignoring all regional and international pleas to allow aid into Gaza.

Also, on Friday, Israel denounced the UN General Assembly's overwhelming vote calling for a humanitarian pause in the war to allow for the entry of aid to Gaza.

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