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Israel’s war on Gaza will continue, Netanyahu tells US Republican senators

Israeli PM’s comments follow mounting criticism from Democrats on the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza.

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Jerusalem, February 18
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the war on Gaza will continue [File: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

Israel’s war on Gaza will continue, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told US Republican senators, despite mounting criticism from Democratic leaders about the growing humanitarian catastrophe in the besieged Palestinian territory.

Speaking to Republican senators via videolink on Wednesday, Netanyahu said his government would continue its efforts to defeat Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to the lawmakers he addressed.

“He’s going to do what he said he’s going to do. He’s going to finish it,” Senator Jim Risch said.

Netanyahu’s speech came after Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s Democratic majority leader and a Jewish American, in last week’s Senate address branded the prime minister an “obstacle to peace” in the region.

Schumer said Netanyahu was no longer fit to govern Israel because of his government’s “dangerous and inflammatory policies” particularly around getting aid into Gaza, as pressure mounts within the Democratic Party for the United States to discontinue its unconditional political and military support for Israel.

Netanyahu has, however, retained backing in Republican circles.

Republican Senator John Barrasso criticised Schumer’s comments and said: “We told [Netanyahu] Israel has every right to defend themselves and he said that’s exactly what they continue to do.”

A spokesperson for Schumer said Netanyahu had offered to speak to the Democrats as well, but Schumer declined, saying the conversation should not be partisan.

“I care deeply about Israel and its long-term future. When you make the issue partisan, you hurt the cause of helping Israel,” Schumer told reporters.


US President Joe Biden warned Netanyahu in a call this week that Israel’s stated goal to invade Rafah in southern Gaza – the last refuge in which approximately 1.5 million displaced Palestinians have sheltered – without a clear humanitarian plan would be a “mistake”.

Biden also asked Netanyahu to send a team of intelligence and military officials to Washington, DC to hear concerns about a potential invasion of the city.

“Gaza’s other major cities have largely been destroyed, and Israel has not presented us or the world with a plan for how or where they would safely move those civilians – let alone feed and house them and ensure access to basic things like sanitation,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday.

“I made it clear to President Biden in our conversation, in the clearest way, that we are determined to complete the elimination of Hamas in Rafah as well,” Netanyahu said of the call in a statement on X.

Rafah, on the Gaza Strip’s southernmost tip, has seen its population balloon from 300,000 to about 1.5 million people, as Israel has forcefully pushed hundreds of thousands of displaced residents fleeing bombardments in north and central Gaza since the start of the war in October.

Western countries, including Israel’s European allies, have cautioned against a ground attack on Rafah, which serves as a key hub for humanitarian aid coming through the Egyptian border.

Looming famine

This week, United Nations experts warned of a looming famine between now and May in parts of Gaza because of an acute shortage of food and water.

About 1.1 million people – half the population – were facing “catastrophic” levels of hunger as people resort to skipping meals for days on end, and as some starve to death, according to the researchers.

Oxfam, a global charity, accused Israel of “deliberately” blocking the entry of critical food and medical supplies into the Strip by using bureaucracy to slow down the inflow of trucks carrying humanitarian supplies via the two Israel-controlled border crossings currently open to aid.

Josep Borell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, reiterated previous calls for Israel to lift the blockade and again accused it of using starvation as a “weapon of war”.

More than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks across Gaza in the last 24 hours. Gaza’s Ministry of Health said on Thursday that at least 31,988 Palestinians have been killed and 74,188 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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