Netanyahu says Palestinian Authority will not rule Gaza after war

Israeli forces battle Hamas in northern and southern Gaza as five soldiers killed in 'friendly fire' incident in Jabalia refugee camp

Israeli tanks patrol near the security fence of Jabalia camp, in northern Gaza. EPA
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that he will not allow the Palestinian Authority to rule the Gaza Strip once the war is over, as the army pressed on with its offensive against Rafah and fought against Hamas elsewhere in the enclave.

The postwar control of Gaza came under renewed focus this week after Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant accused Mr Netanyahu of not having a plan for the enclave.

“I am not prepared to replace 'Hamastan' with 'Fatahstan'," Mr Netanyahu said in a video posted to X, referring to the Fatah political party that dominates the PA, which governs the occupied West Bank.

"As long as Hamas remains standing, no other actor can come in to run a civilian government in Gaza. Certainly not the Palestinian authority," he said. He accused the PA "supports, educates and finances terror".

"The first condition for preparing for another authority is to destroy Hamas, and to do so without excuses," Mr Netanyahu said.

Mr Gallant said on Wednesday that Israel should seek “ a governing alternative in Gaza" that it could work with once it defeated Hamas, and said he did not support indefinite Israeli military occupation of the enclave.

On Thursday, Mr Gallant announced that more ground troops will be sent into Rafah.

In a video posted to X, Mr Gallant said he was near Rafah and had met with troops, claiming the army is "wearing down" Hamas.

"It has no reserves, no ability to produce weapons, no supplies, no armaments," he said, adding that Hamas "taps" are being shut off and the army has destroyed a number of tunnels operated by the militant group.

"The [Rafah] operation will continue with additional ground troops," he added.

Mr Netanyahu ordered the offensive on Rafah this month, in defiance of warnings from the US and UN that a military incursion would lead to a humanitarian disaster.

Israel says Hamas has four battalions still operating in Rafah. Some of the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7 are also believed to be held in the city.

Alongside its offensive on Rafah, Israeli forces are fighting Hamas in both northern and southern Gaza, while its jets bomb targets across the enclave.

Air strikes pounded Gaza city, Zeitoun and the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, as well as the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza and Rafah in the south.

In Jabalia, five Israeli soldiers were killed in a "friendly fire" incident as Israeli tanks and ground troops fought intense battles with Hamas fighters, who are believed to be using tunnel networks to stage attacks.

The army said the troops were killed when two Israeli tanks mistakenly fired shells at the building they were in during clashes in Jabalia refuge camp in northern Gaza on Wednesday.

"Five soldiers of the 202nd Paratrooper Battalion were killed last night in a mass casualty incident as a result of fire by our forces," the military said. Seven other soldiers were wounded.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee Jabalia since Israeli troops began their latest operation in the area on Monday.

Heavy fighting has flared again in the north following army warnings of "attempts by Hamas to rebuild its military capabilities", months after Israel had declared militant command structures in the area dismantled.

Humanitarian warnings

Aid groups have warned that the closure of the Rafah border crossing last week as part of the offensive is exacerbating an already dire situation in the city, where about 1.5 million Palestinians had been sheltering.

Mr Netanyahu has dismissed their warnings. On Wednesday he said "we have to do what we have to do" and vowed to push on with the offensive, claiming that the "evacuation" of about 500,000 civilians from the city meant there was no "humanitarian catastrophe".

Aid groups and the UN have disputed his account.

The UN's World Food Programme said it has run out of stock in Rafah and food aid distribution has been suspended there since Saturday.

Food is still being delivered in Khan Younis and Deir Al Balah, the WFP said, but in a limited capacity.

There has been a limited entry of supplies through the Karem Abu Salem crossing from Israel into Gaza.

The US on Thursday anchored a temporary pier to the beach in Gaza to deliver additional humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians in the enclave.

US Central Command said "as part of this effort, no US troops entered Gaza".

"Lorries carrying humanitarian assistance are expected to begin moving ashore in the coming days," it said. "The United Nations will receive the aid and co-ordinate its distribution into Gaza."

The International Rescue Committee said it is facing “significant disruption to its humanitarian operations” after Israel’s ground operations in Rafah, which resulted in the closure of the crossing and a blockade on entry of humanitarian workers and aid.

"What we are witnessing in Rafah is nothing less than a humanitarian catastrophe," Kiryn Lanning, IRC team lead for the occupied Palestinian territory, said in a statement. "The continuing Israeli bombardment, combined with the closure of the Rafah crossing, has led to critical fuel shortages and severe movement restrictions, paralysing all humanitarian operations.

"Gaza is teetering on the brink of becoming a complete disaster zone. The reopening of this border crossing and the increased flow of aid are essential to avert an irreversible collapse."

Updated: May 16, 2024, 4:05 PM