Netanyahu says Israel is scaling back operations in Gaza

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the present phase of the fight against Hamas within the Gaza Strip is coming to an end, setting the stage for Israel to send more troops to the northern border to confront the Lebanese militant group. Hezbollah.

The comments threaten to further escalate tensions between Israel and Hezbollah at a time when they look like moving ever closer to war. Netanyahu also signaled that there isn’t any end in sight to the grueling war in Gaza.

The Israeli president said in an extended television interview that although the military was near completing its current ground offensive within the southern Gaza city of Rafah, this didn’t mean that the War against Hamas is over. However, he said fewer troops were needed in Gaza to liberate forces to fight Hezbollah.

“We will have the opportunity to move some of our troops north, and we will do that,” he told Israel's Channel 14, a pro-Netanyahu television station, in an interview ceaselessly interrupted by applause from the studio audience. “First and foremost for defense,” he added, but in addition to permit tens of 1000’s of displaced Israelis to return to their homes.

Iran-backed Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after Hamas launched a cross-border attack on October 7 that sparked the Gaza war. Israel and Hezbollah have exchanged fire almost each day since then, but fighting has escalated in recent weeks, raising fears of a full-scale war.

Hezbollah is way stronger than Hamas, and opening a brand new front would increase the danger of a bigger, region-wide war involving other Iranian proxies and possibly Iran itself. This war could cause severe damage and diverse casualties on either side of the border.

White House envoy Amos Hochstein was within the region last week and met with Israeli and Lebanese officials to attempt to ease tensions, but fighting continues.

Netanyahu expressed hope that a diplomatic solution to the crisis could possibly be found, but vowed to unravel the issue “in other ways” if essential. “We can fight on several fronts and we are ready to do that,” he said.

He said a deal wouldn’t just be “an agreement on paper.” He said it might require Hezbollah to maneuver removed from the border, an enforcement mechanism to be arrange and Israelis to be returned to their homes. Tens of 1000’s of individuals were evacuated shortly after the fighting broke out and have been unable to return home.

Hezbollah has said it’ll proceed to fight Israel until a ceasefire is reached in Gaza. The group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, warned Israel last week against starting a war and said Hezbollah has recent weapons and intelligence capabilities This could help goal much more critical positions inside Israel.

Hezbollah has already introduced recent weapons throughout the fighting, including hard-to-defend attack drones that strike all at once. An Israeli soldier was seriously injured in a drone attack on Sunday.

But Israel claims it has shown Hezbollah only a small a part of its overall capabilities and that Lebanon will turn into a second Gaza Strip within the event of war. Israel's army said last week it had “approved and confirmed” a brand new plan for an offensive in Lebanon.

In the interview, Netanyahu said that the Israeli offensive in Gaza is winding down. The Israeli army has been operating within the southern border town since 2008 Rafah since early May. It said it had inflicted heavy damage on Hamas in Rafah, the last remaining Hamas stronghold after a brutal war that lasted nearly nine months. But he said Israel must proceed its “mowing operations” – targeted attacks aimed toward stopping Hamas from regrouping.

Israel launched its air and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip immediately after the October 7 Hamas attack that killed about 1,200 people and took about 250 others hostage.

The Israeli offensive has killed over 37,000 Palestinians, triggered a humanitarian crisis and triggered war crimes and genocide cases on the world's best dishes in The Hague.

It has also increased tensions with the United States, with President Joe Biden and Netanyahu have clashed publicly throughout the war. On Sunday, Netanyahu reiterated his claim that there had been a “dramatic decline” in arms supplies from the United States, Israel’s closest ally, which was hampering the war effort.

Biden delays delivery certain heavy bombs have stalled since May over fears that there could possibly be large-scale civilian casualties, but his government last week rejected Netanyahu's accusation that other deliveries had also been affected.

Although the United States and other mediators are pushing for a ceasefire, Netanyahu has ruled out ending the war unless Israel releases all hostages held by Hamas and destroys Hamas's military and government capabilities.

The current phase of the war “is nearing its end,” Netanyahu said. “But that does not mean that the war will soon be over.”

Netanyahu spoke as his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, was in Washington to debate the war and tensions with Lebanon with American officials. And next month, Netanyahu is invited to talk before Congress for a speech that’s already dividing Washington along partisan lines. Some Democrats, angered by Netanyahu's public spat with Biden, say You won’t participate.

American politicians are also urging Netanyahu to present a transparent post-war plan for Gaza. The US has said it’ll not accept a long-term Israeli occupation of the territory.

Netanyahu articulated a really different vision. He said Israel's security could only be ensured if Israel maintained military control over the world.

“There is no one else” able to doing this, he said. But he said he was in search of a option to create a Palestinian “civil administration” to run day-to-day affairs in Gaza, hopefully with the support of moderate Arab countries. He ruled out any role for the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which was forcibly expelled from Gaza by Hamas in 2007.

Netanyahu ruled out an option favored by a few of his ultranationalist coalition partners – the relocation of Israelis in Gaza. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, ending a 38-year presence.

“The question of an agreement is not realistic,” he said. “I am realistic.”

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