The border zone between the Gaza Strip and Egypt should be under Israel’s control to ensure the demilitarization of the area, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a news conference Saturday.
He spoke as Israel’s war against Hamas entered its 13th week. Netanyahu said it would last many more months.
If Israel takes control of the border zone, it would be a de facto reversal of its 2005 withdrawal from Gaza and place the enclave under Israeli control again after years of control by Hamas.
“The Philadelphi Corridor — or to put it more correctly, the southern stoppage point (of Gaza) — must be in our hands. It must be shut. It is clear that any other arrangement would not ensure the demilitarization that we seek,” Netanyahu said.
He said that about 8,000 militants have been killed in Israel’s military campaign in the Palestinian territory. Since the war began in October, 21,672 Palestinian have been killed and more than 56,000 wounded, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said Saturday. It does not distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties.
Israel began its military campaign to wipe out Hamas after Hamas fighters crossed into southern Israel on October 7. Israel said about 1,200 people were killed and some 240 captives taken in the terror attack, about 129 remain in Gaza. The Israeli military says 170 of its military personnel have been killed so far in the fighting.
“Step by step, we are depriving Hamas of their capabilities,” Netanyahu said Saturday. “We will also eliminate the leaders.”
He vowed to bring all of the hostages back.
Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Tel Aviv on Saturday, demanding the government secure their release.
Airstrikes kill 165, injure 250
Israeli tanks rolled deeper into central and southern Gaza Saturday, pummeling the al-Bureij, Nuseirat and Maghazi refugee camps and the southern city of Khan Younis with artillery fire, while intensive airstrikes have killed 165 people and wounded 250 others in Gaza over the past 24 hours, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run territory.
In Khan Younis, a town near the Egyptian border where thousands of refugees have run for shelter, the wounded have inundated Nasser hospital, the biggest and most important medical facility in the south of the enclave.
Israel’s military said two Hamas compounds were dismantled in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza.
U.N. aid convoy fired upon
United Nations officials have protested what they say is the recent targeting of a Gaza aid convoy by Israeli forces.
Martin Griffiths, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator said Friday that a humanitarian aid convoy was “fired upon while traveling from northern Gaza to Rafah” in vehicles that were “clearly marked.”
“The conflict must stop,” Griffiths said, adding that attacks on humanitarian workers are unlawful.
No one was hurt in the incident. One vehicle was damaged. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.
More than 600,000 vaccines delivered
UNICEF delivered at least 600,000 vaccines to Gaza on Friday. Nearly 17,000 Palestinian children in Gaza have missed their routine vaccinations, including polio and measles, since the start of the fighting between Israel and Hamas in October, according to the agency.
UNICEF said it is working with the World Health Organization and UNRWA — which is the U.N. agency for Palestinians — to reach the children who have missed their shots.
Conditions in Gaza deteriorate
Israel’s widening attacks in central and southern Gaza have pushed tens of thousands of Palestinians seeking shelter into Rafah, where the population has more than tripled to 850,000, according to U.N. figures.
“We don’t have water. We don’t have enough food,” Nour Daher, a displaced woman, told The Associated Press Saturday from the sprawling tent camp. “The kids wake up in the morning wanting to eat, wanting to drink. It took us one hour to find water for them. We couldn’t bring them flour. Even when we wanted to take them to toilets, it took us one hour to walk.”
Juliette Touma, a UNRWA spokesperson, said people are using any empty space to build shacks or sleep in cars or in the open.
Most available water is polluted. The sanitation system has broken down, and working toilets are a rarity.
Almost the entire population of Gaza is dependent on international aid, including for food, UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini said Friday. Lazzarini said the aid operation faces “severe restrictions” from Israeli authorities. Trucks face long delays at the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt and the newly reopened Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel, he said.
Israel has told residents of central Gaza to head south, but even there, people are not safe, he said.
Israeli forces have flattened much of the Gaza enclave going after Hamas militants and destroying the tunnel systems allegedly used by the group.
Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and others.