Israel won't end war in Gaza until 'Iran's intentions to destroy us' are thwarted


Israel will not end the war in Gaza until all hostages held by Hamas-led militants are returned, Hamas is eliminated and "Iran's intentions to destroy us" have been thwarted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli lawmakers Monday.

Yet Netanyahu also said Israel is committed to the peace plan President Joe Biden unveiled last month.

The comments came a day after the prime minister drew criticism for appearing to reject the cease-fire plan, designed to roll into permanent peace if both sides follow steps laid out in the proposal. Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel was willing to pause fighting in Gaza in exchange for the return of some of hostages but said Israel was "obligated" to resume fighting until Hamas was destroyed.

Hamas said in a statement that Netanyahu's plan to continue fighting was "clear confirmation of his rejection" of the cease-fire plan. The statement called on the international community to pressure Israel to end the war. It also called on the Biden administration to stop supporting Israel and "lift its cover over the occupation and its crimes, which make Washington a key partner in their perpetuation."

Hamas-led militants killed almost 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 250 in a brazen, bloody Oct. 7 raid on Israel communities bordering Gaza. More than 100 hostages remain in Gaza, though dozens are believed dead. The attack prompted Israel's assault on Gaza, which authorities there say has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians.

Displaced men walk with a donkey-drawn cart carrying their belongings as they flee the northwest of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on June 24, 2024.
Displaced men walk with a donkey-drawn cart carrying their belongings as they flee the northwest of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on June 24, 2024.


∎ The U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA was sued on Monday by dozens of Israelis who accused it of aiding and abetting the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. The complaint, filed in federal court in Manhattan, says the agency spent more than a decade helping Hamas build a "terror infrastructure" and recruit personnel needed for the attack.

∎ Pro-Palestinian and Pro-Israel protesters clashed in the predominantly Jewish Los Angeles neighborhood of Pico-Robertson on Sunday. The United Jewish Coalition issued a statement saying the incident "brought to life the darkest nightmare many of us hoped we would never witness on American soil" and that Jews in the city were no longer safe.

∎ Netanyahu reiterated his rejection of a Biden-backed plan to have some version of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority run Gaza when the war is over.

Pressure on Netanyahu builds: Biden questions his motives, Hamas sticks to demands

Israel ready to expand Lebanon military operation

When Gaza fighting has eased, Netanyahu said Israel will deploy more forces along the northern border with Lebanon, where clashes with Hezbollah have escalated and forced tens of thousands of Israelis from their homes for months. Netanyahu said the primary goal will be to establish defensive positions in the north.

"If we can, we will do this diplomatically. If not, we will do it another way," Netanyahu said. "But we will bring them home."

European foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned Monday that the Middle East was close to seeing the conflict expanding into Lebanon and possibly beyond. Borrell noted that Iran-backed Hezbollah threatened EU member Cyprus just last week.

"The risk of this war effecting the south of Lebanon and spilling over is every day bigger," Borrell told reporters ahead of a foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg. "We are on the eve of the war expanding."

US general says Israeli plans to strike Lebanon could endanger US troops

An Israeli offensive into Lebanon targeting Iran-backed Hezbollah militants based there could draw Iran deeper into the Middle East conflict and endanger U.S. forces in the region, the top U.S. military officer says.

Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Iranian response to defend Hezbollah could trigger a broader war, according to an Associated Press report. Brown, speaking Sunday with reporters while en route to Botswana for meetings, said Tehran would likely provide more support for Hezbollah than it did Hamas if Iranian leaders felt that Hezbollah was being "significantly threatened.”

Brown said the U.S. might be able to provide only limited support for Israel in a broader Hezbollah war, noting the difficulty in stopping shorter-range rockets Hezbollah routinely into Israel, he said.

Leader of embattled UN aid agency for Palestinians urges global support

The U.N. Palestinian aid agency created 75 years ago to provide aid to Palestinians is "staggering under the weight of relentless attacks" and years of severe underfunding, UNRWA's leader said Monday.

Philippe Lazzarini said UNRWA is targeted by Israel because of its role in safeguarding the rights of Palestinian refugees and because it of its commitment to a political solution supported by an overwhelming majority of the world. He urged global support for the agency, which he said will be crucial for postwar Gaza, including providing education to 300,000 children who have gone virtually without schooling since the war began.

"Israel has long been critical of the agency's mandate," he said. "But it now seeks to end UNRWA's operations, dismissing the agency's status as a United Nations entity supported by an overwhelming majority of member states."

Palestinians accuse Israel of attacking aid distribution center

Eight Palestinians were killed on Sunday in an Israeli airstrike on a training college near Gaza City being used to distribute aid, witnesses said. The strike hit part of a vocational college run by the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA that provides aid to displaced families.

"Some people ... were filling up water, others were receiving coupons, and suddenly we heard something falling," Mohammed Tafesh, who witnessed the carnage, told Reuters. "We ran away, those who were carrying water let it spill."

The Israeli military, which has repeatedly accused the agency of supporting Hamas, said in a statement that "precise armament" and thorough intelligence were used to protect civilians not involved with Hamas.

"This is another example of the Hamas terrorist organization's systematic use of infrastructure and the civilian population as a human shield for terrorist activity," the military said in a statement.

Hamas dismissed Israel's claim that the site was being used for military purposes as "an exposed lie that conceals the true intentions of this fascist government towards the UNRWA."

Contributing: Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israeli news: Netanyahu reaffirms war won't end until Hamas is crushed