Israel will not agree to a cease-fire, Netanyahu says, as fighting continues in Gaza
Updated October 30, 2023 at 4:06 PM ET
TEL AVIV, Israel — After a weekend in which hundreds of thousands of people worldwide took part in pro-Palestinian protests calling for an end to hostilities in Israel's conflict with the militant group Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that his country will not agree to a cease-fire.
"Just as the United States would not agree to a cease-fire after Pearl Harbor or after the terrorist attack of 9/11, Israel will not agree to a cessation of hostilities with Hamas after the horrific attacks of October 7," Netanyahu said, speaking in a press conference with foreign reporters.
The calls for a cease-fire have come as an "expansion" of Israel's ground operations in Gaza pushed into a fourth day Monday. Officials have called the operation a "second phase" of the conflict.
Since the intensified operation began on Friday night, Israeli airstrikes have hit more than 600 Hamas targets, including weapons depots and anti-tank missile launch sites, Israel said. Israeli troops killed dozens of Hamas fighters on Sunday alone, the Israeli military said. Statements from the Israeli military described several "clashes" between Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters.
Ground troops freed an Israeli soldier who being held hostage by Hamas, the Israeli military said. It is the first successful military operation to rescue a hostage by Israel in Gaza. Pvt. Ori Megidish had been kidnapped on Oct. 7, the day nearly 2,000 Hamas-led attackers stormed southern Israel and killed about 1,400 people.
Israel says 238 people are held hostage in Gaza, including 10 Americans. Five hostages have been freed.
On Monday, Hamas released a video of three Israeli hostages and called on Netanyahu to make a deal to set free some 6,000 Israeli-held Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages' release. It was not clear if the hostages had spoken under duress. Hamas has publicly stated it would accept such a deal.
Israeli officials would not comment on the status of negotiations over a deal to free hostages.
In Israel, Netanyahu has faced considerable political pressure over his handling of the conflict, including his limited contact with the families of people killed or taken hostage. And he is seen by critics as attempting to deflect responsibility for the deadliest attack on civilians in Israel's 75-year history.
Late Saturday, Netanyahu posted a tweet that appeared to place blame for the intelligence failure on the heads of Israeli intelligence services, then deleted it and apologized.
At a press conference Monday night, Netanyahu said he would not resign.
"The only thing that I intend to have resign is Hamas. We're going to resign them to the dustbin of history," Netanyahu said.
About a thousand Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Friday, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, bringing the overall death toll there to more than 8,000.
After two nights and a day of internet and phone service outages, Palestinian communications came back on Sunday. Across Gaza and beyond, Palestinians expressed relief as families were able to reach loved ones.
Some food, medical supplies trickle into Gaza — but no fuel
Israel has continued to urge the evacuation of northern Gaza, including hospitals, where beds are completely full with injured people and hallways have crowded each night with Palestinians seeking refuge from airstrikes. At least a third of hospitals in Gaza have been forced to shut down due to a lack of fuel to operate generators, the U.N. says.
At Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, hospital officials have evacuated displaced people, but staff are still treating patients, said Dr. Fadel Naim, an orthopedic surgeon working there. The hospital was the site of a deadly explosion on Oct. 17 that killed at least 100 people, according to estimates by U.S. intelligence services.
"They are trying to push the people to evacuate the hospital," Naim told NPR. "They are still warning us."
About 117 trucks carrying aid have been allowed into Gaza via the territory's Rafah border with Egypt. Most of those trucks have carried medical supplies, and about half have carried food. None have carried fuel, which Israel has blocked over concerns it could be stolen by Hamas.
Still, food and clean water are scarce
Food in Gaza has been difficult to come by. The lack of electricity and fuel for generators has put many food suppliers out of operation. Palestinians living in Gaza have told NPR about fruitless searches for open vendors or waiting in line for hours for a day's worth of bread for their family.
On Saturday, thousands of people broke into several warehouses operated by UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, to steal wheat flour and other survival supplies.
"This is a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza. People are scared, frustrated and desperate," said Thomas White, UNRWA's top official for Gaza, in a statement Saturday.
The pace of aid trucks crossing into Gaza is "insufficient" and "geared to fail," he said.
"Very few trucks, slow processes, strict inspections, supplies that do not match the requirements of UNRWA and the other aid organizations, and mostly the ongoing ban on fuel, are all a recipe for a failed system," he said.
Israel said Sunday it would resume water supply to central Gaza and authorize the Palestinian Water Authority to make repairs to pipelines damaged in the conflict. The U.N. reported that water supply in southern Gaza had experienced "significant improvement" in recent days as its agencies have delivered small amounts of fuel to desalination plants and pumping stations.
Still, with much of Gaza's population of 2.3 million people crowded into the territory's southern half, clean water remained challenging to acquire.
"We have been taking extreme measures to reserve whatever water we had left. For instance, showers are something of the past," said Abood Okal, a Palestinian-American and Massachusetts resident who was visiting family in Gaza when the war began and has since been stranded.
He, his wife and 1-year-old son are sheltering in a home in southern Gaza with about 40 or so other people, he said. Members of the household have been walking to a filtration station every day to fill up a few gallons to bring home for everyone.
Last Thursday, that filtration station ran out of diesel to operate its generators, Okal said Thursday evening. "We are almost out of drinking water today. I think we have just enough to last us through tonight, then tomorrow we'll be basically out," he said.
A number of cities see pro-Palestinian protests
In New York, London, Madrid, Casablanca, Istanbul, Islamabad and other cities worldwide, tens of thousands of people took part in pro-Palestinian protests this past weekend, calling for a cease-fire.
An airport in Russia's Muslim-majority region of Dagestan closed Sunday night after a pro-Palestinian mob stormed the airport as a flight from Tel Aviv arrived.
Video posted to social media appeared to show a crowd on the tarmac surrounding the plane, which landed at the Makhachkala airport around 7:15 p.m. local time.
"All Dagestanis empathize with the suffering of victims of the actions of unrighteous people and politicians and pray for peace in Palestine. But what happened at our airport is outrageous and should receive an appropriate assessment from law enforcement agencies," said Sergey Melikov, head of the Dagestan Republic, in a post on Telegram.
Liz Baker contributed reporting from Tel Aviv, and Majd Al-Waheidi contributed reporting from Washington, D.C. contributed to this story
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