‘Israel could conquer Gaza’

Thursday, May 20th, 2021 00:00 |
Demonstrators holding banners and placards take part in a protest rally against Israel’s attacks on the Palestinian Gaza Strip in Lahore, Pakistan, on May 19, 2021. Photo/AFP

Gaza City, Wednesday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel’s bombing of Gaza targets aims to deter Hamas but he did not rule out a campaign to “conquer” the enclave’s Islamist rulers.

Deafening air strikes and rocket fire once more shook Gaza in the conflict that has claimed 219 Palestinian lives according to the Gaza health ministry and killed 12 people in Israel according to Israeli police.

While an international diplomatic push aims to end the worst bloodshed in years, Netanyahu issued another tough threat against the armed group that has fired thousands of rockets at Israel since May 10.

Forceful deterrence

“There are only two ways that you can deal with them,” Netanyahu told a group of foreign ambassadors.

“You can either conquer them, and that’s always an open possibility, or you can deter them, and we are engaged right now in forceful deterrence, but I have to say we don’t rule out anything.”

The goal is to “degrade Hamas’ capabilities, their terror capabilities, and degrade their will,” Netanyahu said.

An Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, however said in a separate briefing that Israel is now assessing at what stage it may stop its military campaign.

“We are looking at when is the right moment for a ceasefire,” said the source.

Israel was evaluating whether its objective of degrading Hamas’ capabilities had been achieved, the military source said, and “whether Hamas understands the message” that its rocket barrages towards Israel cannot recur.

Warplanes hit Gaza City again in the pre-dawn hours, as the Israeli military kept targeting militant leaders and infrastructure in the crowded enclave which has been under Israeli blockade for nearly 15 years.

Gaza mother-of-seven Randa Abu Sultan, 45, recounted how her family crowded into one room to sit out another night of fear.

“We’re all terrified by the sound of explosions, missiles and fighter jets,” she said. “My four-year-old son tells me he’s scared that if he falls asleep, he’ll wake up to find us dead.”

The United States, a key Israel ally, has repeatedly blocked adoption of a joint UN Security Council statement calling for a halt to hostilities.

US President Joe Biden told Netanyahu on Monday that he backs having a ceasefire but stopped short of openly demanding a truce.    – AFP

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