Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday refused to answer whether he would take responsibility for failing to prevent the October 7 attack on Israel, saying that there would be time for such “difficult” questions once the war is over.
In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Netanyahu acknowledged that it is “a question that needs to be asked,” but that the country for now needs to unite around the goal of defeating Hamas – the militant group that controls Gaza and launched the assault on Israel.
“We’re going to answer all these questions,” the prime minister said, adding that, “Right now, I think what we have to do is unite the country for one purpose; to achieve victory.”
“Let’s focus on victory – that’s my responsibility now.”
Netanyahu has been criticized for failing to anticipate the deadliest attack on Israel since the country’s founding in 1948, when Hamas militants killed more than 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostages last month, according to Israeli authorities.
During a Saturday demonstration in Tel Aviv, families of hostages held by the militant group in Gaza called on Netanyahu and the government to do more to secure the release of their loved ones.
The prime minister told CNN Sunday that Israel is doing all it can “around the clock” to release the hostages, saying it is one of his two war goals, along with the destruction of Hamas.
He also reiterated his stance regarding international calls for a ceasefire, saying the only halt in fighting he would accept is “one in which we have our hostages released.”
For days, tens of thousands of Gazans have fled to the south of the enclave using temporary evacuation corridors. Asked if he would allow days-long pauses, Netanyahu told CNN, “that’s not a pause.”
“If you’re talking about stopping the fighting, that’s exactly what Hamas wants,” Netanyahu said, arguing that Hamas would use those extended pauses to replenish its supplies.
“Hamas wants an endless series of pauses that basically dissipate the battle against them,” he said.
‘No reason why we can’t just take the patients out of there’
Since the October 7 attacks, Israel has been bombarding Gaza, killing at least 11,025 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, which draws figures from the Hamas-controlled territory.
This toll includes 4,506 children and 3,027 women, according to the ministry, which said that over 27,000 other individuals have sustained injuries.
Asked about hospitals in Gaza that health officials and aid agencies say are suffering a “catastrophic situation,” as Israel’s ground offensive moves forward in northern Gaza, Netanyahu told CNN that Israel is helping patients by establishing safe corridors on the ground, but insisted that “no immunity” will be given to Hamas.
“We have designated routes to a safe zone south of Gaza City,” he said. “We want all civilians to be moved out of harm’s way.”
Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the civilian casualties and said that “100 or so” have already been evacuated from Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza’s largest healthcare facility. “There’s no reason why we can’t just take the patients out of there,” he said.
CNN cannot verify those claims. Israel earlier on Sunday announced a corridor near Al-Shifa Hospital, but the International Committee of the Red Cross said it could not confirm if any evacuations had taken place.
Palestinian authorities in Gaza and the West Bank claimed the Israeli military had fired at people who moved between hospital buildings — an allegation the Israeli military has denied.
With fighting raging, it remains a major open question about who will run post-war Gaza.
This week, the US suggested that the Palestinian Authority – which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank – could play a role.
Netanyahu said Israel’s security role in a post-war Gaza would be an “over-riding, over-reaching military envelope,” but did not explain what that meant.
It would be accompanied by “a reconstructed civilian authority … some kind of civilian Palestinian Authority” in control of Gaza that is “willing to fight the terrorists” and educate children for a “future of peace, cooperation, prosperity, cooperation with Israel,” and “not the annihilation of Israel.”
“So far, that hasn’t happened,” he added.
“There has to be something else. Otherwise we’re just falling into that same rabbit hole and we’re going to have the same result. Remember the PA [Palestinian Authority] was already in Gaza,” Netanyahu continued.
The PA used to run both Gaza and the West Bank but was ousted after a brief civil war with Hamas.
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