PM Netanyahu says Israeli war on Gaza to last ‘many months,’ vows to eliminate Hamas

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that Israel’s war against Hamas will last “many months” as he renewed his pledge to eliminate the Palestinian militant group from Gaza.

Vowing to bring home all Israelis still held hostage in Gaza, Netanyahu said the military was involved in a “complex fight” and needed time to achieve its goals.

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“The war will continue for many months until Hamas is eliminated and the hostages are returned,” Netanyahu told a news conference.

“We will guarantee that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel,” he said, adding that around 8,000 militants had already been killed in Israel’s military campaign in the Palestinian territory.

“Step by step we are depriving Hamas of their capabilities... We will also eliminate the leaders.”

The war between Israel and Hamas erupted after Hamas fighters carried out a deadly attack on southern Israel on October 7 that killed about 1,140 people, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

International mediators -- who last month brokered a week-long truce that saw more than 100 hostages released and some aid enter Gaza -- continue in their efforts to secure a new pause in fighting.

US news outlet Axios and Israeli website Ynet, both citing unnamed Israeli officials, reported that Qatari mediators had told Israel that Hamas was prepared to resume talks on new hostage releases in exchange for a ceasefire.

When asked if a new deal for hostage releases was being negotiated, Netanyahu said Hamas had been “giving all kinds of ultimatums that we didn’t accept.”

“We are seeing a certain shift [but] I don’t want to create an expectation,” he said without elaborating.

A Hamas delegation was in Cairo on Friday to discuss an Egyptian plan for renewable ceasefires, a staggered release of hostages for Palestinian prisoners and ultimately an end to the war, sources close to Hamas said.

Palestinian militants abducted some 250 hostages during the October 7 attack. Some 129 hostages are still held in Gaza, according to the Israeli military.

On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Tel Aviv, demanding that the government secure their release.

“Bring them home now,” the demonstrators chanted, an AFP correspondent reported.

“The scariest thing in Gaza was to be forgotten,” said Moran Stela Yanai, one of the hostages released during last month’s truce.

“The most humane thing that can be done... is to bring everyone back,” she told the rally.

Israel’s relentless assault on Gaza in retaliation to the October 7 attack has so far killed at least 21,672 people, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

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