Thursday, May 23, 2024

Israel’s Netanyahu doubles down on military pressure against Hamas in Gaza despite outcry

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JERUSALEM — In a brazenly defiant outburst on the cusp of the Passover holy day, Benjamin Netanyahu, the battle-hardened Israeli prime minister, thundered a vow to pummel the militant Hamas faction with an escalating onslaught of military might. His aim: To batter the Palestinian group into surrendering captive hostages it holds in the battered Gaza Strip.

Casting blame squarely on Hamas as the “sole hurdle” obstructing a deal to liberate the prisoners, a fired-up Netanyahu threatened to rain down harsher military blows in a burgeoning confrontation that has already exacted a grim human toll. He spoke of ratcheting up both military and political pressure through “painful” new hammer blows, though he remained vague on specifics.

“In the coming days, we will escalate the military and political pummeling of Hamas, for this is the only path to freedom for our hostages,” the prime minister growled in a video statement released Sunday.

The pugnacious threats heralded a potential eruption of intensified violence between Israel and the Iran-backed Hamas, the militant group that has governed Gaza with an iron grip. Netanyahu’s provocative words landed amid a crescendo of global outcry, including from the U.S., Israel’s most crucial ally, against any further military escalation in the overcrowded Palestinian coastal territory.

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Already the latest spasm of hostilities has inflicted a devastating human cost, especially in impoverished Gaza. Over 1.5 million Palestinians have taken refuge in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza that has so far been spared an Israeli ground invasion.

But a combative Netanyahu shrugged off the global opposition on Sunday. He vowed to “fight it with every ounce of my being” against any attempt to sanction Israeli military units over purported human rights abuses during the conflict.

Those defiant words appeared aimed at reports the United States was mulling sanctions on the Netzah Yehuda battalion, an Israeli Army unit active in the occupied West Bank and accused of heavy-handed tactics.

American officials have not confirmed any such punishment plans. But the mere prospect incensed Netanyahu, who insistently declared the Israeli military’s adherence to international law. He fired a warning salvo toward Washington not to take any punitive measures against his forces.

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“If anyone thinks they can slap sanctions on a unit of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) – I will fight it with every fiber of my being,” Netanyahu barked.

The Israeli military firmly backed its Netzah Yehuda battalion as a combat unit operating lawfully in the West Bank, land occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War. “The IDF investigates any irregular incidents practicably and by the book,” the military stated.

Yet human rights monitors have long accused Israeli forces of employing excessive force and perpetrating abuses against Palestinians in the occupied territories. Such criticisms have intensified amid the latest spasm of Gaza violence.

Hamas, the militant group which violently seized control of Gaza in 2007, has been locked in recurring armed conflicts with Israel. The group is designated a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and other Western nations. Hamas is believed still holding captive two Israeli civilians and the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in previous bouts of fighting.

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The latest eruption of Israeli-Palestinian warfare was sparked earlier this month after Hamas militants conducted an audacious cross-border raid inside Israel itself. Since then, Israeli warplanes have pounded Gaza with airstrikes while Hamas and other militants have blasted Israeli cities and towns with salvos of rockets.

As the body count has mounted, the U.S. and other nations have urged both sides to restore calm and revive peace negotiations. But Netanyahu’s harsh broadsides on Sunday signaled he had no immediate intent to draw down militarily against Hamas.

Instead, the Israeli leader seemed resolute to double down on his hardline stance. He appeared to bet that escalating military force could bludgeon concessions from the militants and ultimately provide an exit from the crisis — without him appearing to make any compromises.



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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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