Israel wants to create security ‘buffer zone’ in Gaza

Israel continues to deploy troops and armed vehicles near the Gaza border on Saturday
Israel continues to deploy troops and armed vehicles near the Gaza border on Saturday - Anadolu
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Israel wants to create a “buffer” zone within Gaza to stop Hamas from being able to gather close to its border in the future, a senior aide to Benjamin Netanyahu has said.

Mark Regev, a senior adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister, said Jerusalem needs a “security envelope” around the coastal strip to prevent Gazans accessing the border fence on foot.

Mr Netanyahu’s government has reportedly already informed several Arab neighbours of its desire to demarcate a section on the Palestinian side of the border as part of proposals for the post-war future of the enclave.

Mr Regev said: “That will be a necessary prerequisite of any post-Hamas reality.”

He added that Israel planned to maintain “overall security control” of the territory “for the foreseeable future” after the fighting ends.

Mr Regev insisted that a buffer zone did not equate to “Israel taking territory from Gaza”.

However, the proposals received a lukewarm reception in Washington, where John Kirby, the White House’s leading spokesman on the conflict, said: “We don’t support any reduction of the geographic limits of Gaza.”

Kamala Harris, the US vice president, sketched out the US’s own vision for a post-war Gaza. She said: “We want to see a unified Gaza and West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”

Ms Harris also underscored US concerns over the high civilian toll of Israel’s offensive while attending the Cop28 summit in Dubai on Saturday.

“Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed,” she said. “We believe Israel must do more to protect innocent civilians.”

The armed wing of the Hamas militant group, the Al Qassem Brigades, issued a statement on Saturday saying it had bombarded Tel Aviv with a barrage of missiles in response to Israel’s ongoing war on the Gaza Strip.

Israel pounded targets in the densely populated southern half of the Gaza Strip on Saturday, bombing more than 400 targets in the first 24 hours following the end of a fragile truce.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that fighter jets carried out extensive strikes on the southern city of Khan Younis, where Hamas leaders are thought to be stationed.

In northern Gaza, an airstrike flattened a residential building hosting displaced families in the urban refugee camp of Jabaliya on the outskirts of Gaza City.

At least nine people, including three children, were killed in a strike on a house in Deir al-Balah, in the south, according to the hospital where the bodies were taken.

The hospital also received seven bodies of others killed in overnight airstrikes, including two children.

At least 200 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting resumed on Friday morning, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Hopes of a return to negotiations for further truces were dealt a blow when Mr Netanyahu ordered his negotiators to return from Qatar after the talks became deadlocked.

Officials from Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency praised the “tremendous” efforts of Qatari mediators in Doha, along with the assistance of Egypt and the CIA for securing the release of 108 hostages.

But Mr Netanyahu’s office said talks to release more of the estimated 136 remaining Hamas hostages had reached an “impasse”.

France’s Emmanuel Macron took up the challenge to work on a new truce as he headed to Qatar on Saturday.

Mr Macron said he was “very concerned” by the resumption of violence and doubled down on his calls for “a lasting ceasefire” to free all hostages, allow in more aid and to assure Israel of its security.

But he said: “There is no lasting security for Israel in the region if its security is achieved at the cost of Palestinian lives and thus of the resentment of public opinions in the region.”

Britain will conduct unarmed surveillance flights over Israel and Gaza as part of hostage rescue efforts, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) said on Saturday night.

The MoD said the aircraft “will be unarmed, do not have a combat role, and will be tasked solely to locate hostages”.

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