Netanyahu stands firmly behind Gaza operation despite US push for peace

Photo: EPA

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said he was determined to continue his country's military operation in Gaza, despite a push from Washington earlier on Wednesday calling for a de-escalation in the conflict, now in its ninth day, dpa reported. Netanyahu tweeted that the goal of the military operation in Gaza is to provide security and tranquillity for Israel's citizens.

The comments came following a phone call with US President Joe Biden, who told Netanyahu that he "expected a significant de-escalation." Netanyahu did not directly address Biden's call, but thanked the US president for supporting Israel's right to defend itself.

The exchange followed denials by Israel and the Hamas movement in Gaza that a ceasefire was in the works, amid pressure on the two sides to end their fighting. Izzat al-Rishak, a high-ranking member of Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, said on Wednesday that there had been no agreement on a ceasefire with Israel.

Israeli television had earlier reported on the potential for an internationally mediated ceasefire to go into effect from 6 am (0300 GMT) on Thursday. Officials later denied the prospect of a cessation of hostilities, according to later reports.

Earlier, Netanyahu said the goal of the Israeli assault against Hamas militants was "to maximize the period of quiet and calm that Israel can gain against this foe." "There are only two ways that you can deal with them: You can either conquer them - and that's always an open possibility - or you can deter them. And we are engaged now in forceful deterrence, but I have to say, we don't rule out anything."

The foreign ministers of Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia will travel to Israel on Thursday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, describing the visits as a show of “sympathy and support” for the Jewish state amid ongoing fighting with the Gaza-based Hamas terror group.

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