Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would consider “tactical little pauses” in fighting to facilitate the entry of aid or the exit of hostages from the Gaza Strip, but again rejected calls for a ceasefire despite international pressure.
Having encircled the densely populated Gaza City in the north of the enclave, where the Hamas Islamist group is based, Israel’s military said it had taken a militant compound and was set to attack fighters hiding in a warren of underground tunnels.
Since the Hamas raid on southern Israel on Oct.7, when its fighters killed 1,400 people and seized 240 hostages, Israel has bombarded the enclave in an assault that Gaza health officials say has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians, including some 4,100 children.
Both Israel and Hamas have rebuffed mounting calls for a halt in fighting. Israel says hostages should be released first. Hamas says it will not free them nor stop fighting while Gaza is under assault.
Netanyahu said a general ceasefire would hamper his country’s war effort, but pausing fighting for humanitarian reasons, an idea supported by Israel’s top ally the United States, would continue to be considered based on circumstances.
“As far as tactical little pauses – an hour here, an hour there – we’ve had them before. I suppose we’ll check the circumstances in order to enable goods, humanitarian goods to come in, or our hostages, individual hostages, to leave,” Netanyahu told ABC News on Monday.
“But I don’t think there’s going to be a general ceasefire.”
U.S. President Joe Biden discussed such pauses and possible hostage releases in a phone call with Netanyahu on Monday, reiterating his support for Israel while emphasising that it must protect civilians, the White House said.
Like Israel, Washington fears Hamas would take advantage of a full ceasefire to regroup.
Netanyahu said that when the conflict is over he thinks “Israel will for an indefinite period … have the overall security responsibility (in Gaza) because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have that security responsibility.”