Far-right members of Israeli government call on Netanyahu to say Palestinian Authority will not take control of Gaza

EU urges Israel to end military operation in Rafah ‘immediately’, warning failure to do so will undermine ties with EU

With fierce clashes continuing in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip and in Rafah in the south, Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant caused consternation on Wednesday when he called on prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to declare publicly that Israel will not rule over Gaza.

Echoing calls by military and intelligence chiefs over recent months, Mr Gallant said an alternative to rule by the militant group Hamas must be found immediately and put in place. “The ‘day after Hamas’ will only be achieved with Palestinian entities taking control of Gaza, accompanied by international actors, establishing a governing alternative to Hamas’s rule,” he said, urging Mr Netanyahu to take “tough decisions”, warning that “indecision is, in essence, a decision”.

Mr Netanyahu immediately rejected the call. “I will not replace Hamastan with Fatahstan,” he said. “Talk about the day after the war while Hamas is still intact is pointless.”

Far-right members of the Israeli government called on Mr Netanyahu to dismiss Mr Gallant and declare that the Palestinian Authority will not take control of Gaza.


The lack of a post-war Gaza strategy is straining Israel’s relations with Washington. US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Israel needed “a clear and concrete plan for the future of Gaza”, adding that “we can’t have a vacuum in Gaza that’s likely to be filled by chaos”.

The United Nations says more than half a million Palestinians have been displaced by escalating Israeli military operations in recent days, warning that fuel shortages are threatening the continuity of health services, driving a rise in infectious diseases.

Israel is now in control of the eastern neighbourhoods of Rafah, claiming to have killed 100 militants in clashes and with more troops massed on the Gaza border. The army is poised to push further into the city, where more than a million Gaza residents had fled to escape from fighting during the seven-month war.

The EU on Wednesday urged Israel to end its military operation in Rafah “immediately”, warning that failure to do so would undermine ties with the union. “Should Israel continue its military operation in Rafah it would inevitably put a heavy strain on the EU’s relationship with Israel,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

An Israeli delegation held talks with Egypt in Cairo in Wednesday following tension over the Rafah offensive. The talks focused on the urgent need to reopen the Rafah crossing and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza after Israel seized control of it earlier this month. Egypt has refused to reopen the crossing in protest at the offensive in Rafah, warning that the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty is at risk.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, more than 35,200 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 253 hostages seized in the surprise Hamas attack on October 7th. It says 132 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, though it is not known how many are alive.

There was another serious flare-up on Israel’s border with Lebanon on Wednesday, when Hizbullah fired more than 70 rockets towards northern Israel in response to the killing of a senior field commander in an Israeli drone strike on his car the previous day. The attack took place in Tyre in southern Lebanon.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague is to hold hearings on Thursday and Friday to discuss new emergency measures sought by South Africa, joined by Turkey and Egypt, to stop Israeli military operations in Rafah. However, even if the court rules that Israel should halt the attack on Rafah it has no means to enforce such a decision

The court is still considering South Africa’s case from December, accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem