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  4. When will the deadly Israel-Hamas war end? Netanyahu responds but with a stern warning for Hezbollah I VIDEO

When will the deadly Israel-Hamas war end? Netanyahu responds but with a stern warning for Hezbollah I VIDEO

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the phase of intense fighting against Hamas in the Gaza Strip was coming to an end but that the war would not end until the Islamist group no longer controls the Palestinian enclave.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Jerusalem Published on: June 24, 2024 11:22 IST
Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Image Source : AP Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that the current phase of fighting against Hamas in Gaza is winding down. However, he clarified that the war would not end until the Islamist group no longer controlled the Palestinian enclave. Netanyahu's latest remarks could be seen as setting the stage for Israel to send more troops to its northern border to confront the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The comments threatened to further heighten the tensions between Israel and Hezbollah at a time when they appear to be moving closer to war. Netanyahu also signalled that there is no end in sight to the grinding war in Gaza.

The Israeli leader said in a lengthy TV interview that while the army is close to completing its current ground offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, that would not mean the war against Hamas is over. But he said fewer troops would be needed in Gaza, freeing up forces to battle Hezbollah. "We will have the possibility of transferring some of our forces north, and we will do that,” he told Israel's Channel 14, a pro-Netanyahu TV channel, in an interview that was frequently interrupted by applause from the studio audience. “First and foremost, for defence,” he added, but also to allow tens of thousands of displaced Israelis to return home.

Israel's next target will be Hezbollah

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah began striking Israel almost immediately after Hamas' October 7 cross-border attack that triggered the Gaza war. Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire nearly every day since then, but the fighting has escalated in recent weeks, raising fears of a full-blown war. Hezbollah is much stronger than Hamas, and opening a new front would raise the risk of a larger, region-wide war involving other Iranian proxies and perhaps Iran itself that could cause heavy damage and mass casualties on both sides of the border.

White House envoy Amos Hochstein was in the region last week meeting with officials in Israel and Lebanon in an effort to lower tensions. But the fighting has continued. Netanyahu said he hoped a diplomatic solution to the crisis could be found but vowed to solve the problem “in a different way” if needed.? We can fight on several fronts and we are prepared to do that,” he said.

"Deal would not just be “an agreement on paper": Netanyahu

He said any deal would not just be “an agreement on paper.” He said it would require Hezbollah to be far from the border, an enforcement mechanism and the return of Israelis back to their homes. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated shortly after the fighting erupted and have not been able to go home.

Hezbollah has said it will continue battling Israel until a cease-fire is reached in Gaza. The group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, warned Israel last week against launching a war, saying Hezbollah has new weapons and intelligence capabilities that could help it target more critical positions deeper inside Israel. Hezbollah already has unveiled new weapons during the low-level fighting, including hard-to-defend attack drones that strike with little warning. An Israeli soldier was badly wounded Sunday in a drone strike.

But Israel says it too has shown Hezbollah only a small part of its full capabilities, and that Lebanon will be turned into a second Gaza if there is a war. Israel's army last week said it had “approved and validated” a new plan for a Lebanon offensive.

In the interview, Netanyahu said that Israel's offensive in Gaza is winding down. The Israeli army has been operating in the southern border town of Rafah since early May. It says it has inflicted heavy damage on Hamas in Rafah, which it has identified as the last remaining Hamas stronghold after a brutal war stretching nearly nine months. But he said Israel would have to continue “mowing” operations — targeted strikes aimed at preventing Hamas from regrouping.

(With inputs from agencies)

Also Read: Israel's top minister Benny Gantz quits Netanyahu's war cabinet. Will it pose any threat to govt?

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