Netanyahu to Biden: Israel has no choice but to undertake ground operation in Gaza

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told US President Joe Biden on Sunday that Israel has no choice but to undertake a ground operation in Gaza in response to Hamas’ attack.

“We have to go in,” Netanyahu told Biden, Axios reported, citing three Israeli and US sources briefed on the call.

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During their conversation, Biden also discussed the issue of Israeli hostages in Gaza, according to the same sources.

“We have to go in. We can’t negotiate now,” Netanyahu said.

“Netanyahu told Biden that Israel had no other choice but to respond with force because a country can’t show weakness in the Middle East,” the Axios report said. “We need to restore deterrence.”

Biden did not apply pressure on Netanyahu to reconsider or dissuade him from proceeding with a ground operation, Axios reported.

The Israeli military said it had called up an unprecedented 300,000 reservists and was imposing a total blockade of the Gaza Strip, signs it could be planning a ground assault there to defeat Hamas.

A ground assault would be a major step for Israel, which has sent troops back into Gaza twice since it abandoned the territory nearly two decades ago, but has tried to avoid reimposing any long-term occupation there.

Israeli officials have not confirmed any plans for a ground assault but have discussed what it might entail. Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, likened a possible operation to a 2002 sweep of the West Bank in which Palestinian cities were encircled and then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat besieged in his headquarters.

Hamas militants stormed towns and communities in southern Israel at dawn on Saturday under the cover of a barrage of rocket fire, in the deadliest attack on the country in decades.

Israel has retaliated by carrying out intense air strikes on the Gaza Strip which is controled by the Palestinian militant group.

More than 700 people have been killed in Israel since Hamas launched its attack on Saturday, while on the Gaza side, at least 560 people have been killed.

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