Jerusalem, Israel – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that Israel has successfully destroyed 18 of the 24 Hamas military battalions and has incapacitated or killed more than half of the group’s fighters. Netanyahu emphasized that anything short of “total victory” would mean thousands of Israelis would be unable to return to their homes along the Gaza border. He warned that without total victory, the militants would launch new attacks, and other hostile groups like Iran and Hezbollah would capitalize on the chaos.
Speaking at his Likud party’s weekly faction meeting, Netanyahu stated that the cease-fire negotiations were ongoing but that a deal was not imminent. He stressed that Israel was committed to achieving a similar deal to the one that led to the release of more than 100 hostages in November. However, he made it clear that no deal for the remaining hostages would be linked to a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. Netanyahu also mentioned that Hamas had made demands that Israel would not agree to.
In other developments, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh to discuss the ongoing conflict in Gaza, as well as tensions in the region. Blinken is on a Middle East trip aiming to broker a deal to halt the bloodshed in Gaza and secure the return of hostages to Israel. His trip will also include visits to Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and the West Bank. Meanwhile, there are indications of Hamas reestablishing its presence in northern Gaza following Israel’s partial troop withdrawal from the area. Residents report the reappearance of Hamas-led security forces in some areas.
These recent events come amid growing tension in the region, with Iran-backed Houthi rebels calling for revenge while continuing to wreak havoc on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. The U.S. conducted airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, sparking contradictory statements regarding the notification of Iraq ahead of the strikes.
As the conflict in the Middle East continues to unfold, it remains a complex and evolving situation with widespread implications for the region’s stability and global security.