Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on September 27, 2023.

(Photo: Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Netanyahu Suggests Israel Plans to Occupy Gaza Strip for 'Indefinite Period'

The far-right prime minister told ABC News that Israel will "have the overall security responsibility" in Gaza after the current deadly assault ends.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview aired late Monday that his country intends to exercise control over the Gaza Strip for an "indefinite period" after the end of the current assault, which has decimated the Palestinian territory's infrastructure and killed more than 10,000 people.

Asked by ABC's David Muir who should govern Gaza when the war is over, Netanyahu responded, "Those who don't want to continue the way of Hamas."

The far-right prime minister added that he believes Israel will indefinitely "have the overall security responsibility because we've seen what happens when we don't have it."

Under international law, a territory is occupied if it is "placed under the authority of the hostile army."

Israel claims its decadeslong occupation of the Gaza Strip ended in 2005, when the country withdrew ground troops and removed settlers from the enclave. But Israel never fully relinquished military control over Gaza and kept in place its devastating and unlawful embargo, which the Israeli government has tightened during its ongoing bombardment and ground invasion of the strip.

Given the genocidal rhetoric of Israel officials in the aftermath of the Hamas-led October 7 attack, human rights groups, United Nations officials, and others have expressed alarm about the Israeli government's longer-term plans for Gaza—concerns that have been amplified by a leaked policy paper suggesting full-scale ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian territory.

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, co-founder of Progressive International, called Netanyahu's remarks to ABC a "clear and succinct statement" of the Israeli government's intentions.

"Israel plans to re-occupy a part of Palestine (Gaza) after having cleansed it of much, if not all, of its Palestinian population," Varoufakis wrote on social media. "In short, Israel's official policy is to violate the Geneva Convention and to pursue a war crime."

Netanyahu's comments came weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden urged Israel not to occupy Gaza "again," saying that would be "a big mistake."

Israel has repeatedly ignored mild U.S. calls to adhere to international law and ensure protections for Gaza civilians, tens of thousands of whom have been killed or wounded by the Israeli military's indiscriminate bombing campaign. Israeli troops are currently surrounding Gaza's largest city and preparing to enter in the coming days.

At Biden's request, U.S. lawmakers are readying a $14 billion military aid package for Israel despite growing warnings that their unconditional support for the Israeli government's assault on Gaza could make them complicit in genocide.

Hours before Netanyahu's ABC interview aired, Human Rights Watch called for a weapons embargo on Israel and Palestinian armed groups, accusing both of "serious abuses amounting to war crimes during the current hostilities."

“Civilians are being punished and killed at a scale unprecedented in recent history in Israel and Palestine," Bruno Stagno, chief advocacy officer at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "The United States, Iran, and other governments risk being complicit in grave abuses if they continue to provide military assistance to known violators."

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