Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must “demilitarize” the territory subject to the blockade (File)

Tel Aviv, Israel:

Who will govern Gaza when the Israeli military offensive against Hamas ends? After five weeks of fighting, the answer remains shrouded in confusion.

Hamas, a Palestinian group with an armed wing, has governed the coastal territory of around 2.4 million people since 2007, after which Israel placed Gaza under a strict blockade governing the movement of people and goods.

Hamas took power that year following street fighting with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said late last month that the Palestinian Authority should regain control of the Gaza Strip from Hamas, with international actors potentially playing a role in the meantime.

The Palestinian Authority currently exercises partial administrative control over the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

But in a meeting with Blinken earlier this month, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said the PA could only take power in Gaza if a “comprehensive political solution” was found to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. and which includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Palestine. Gaza strip.

Last Wednesday, Blinken again spoke of “Palestinian-led governance” and a Gaza “unified with the West Bank” under the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas, 88, who has led the PA for 18 years, is widely unpopular and remains powerless in the face of rapid Israeli settlement expansion and military control in the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem.

‘Little hope’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long sought to sideline the Palestinian Authority, told Fox News on Wednesday that his country has no plans to reoccupy Gaza.

Israel occupied Gaza in 1967 and remained there until it withdrew in 2005, leaving local authority to the Palestinian Authority.

“We do not seek to rule Gaza. We do not seek to occupy it, but we seek to give it and us a better future,” Netanyahu said.

Driven by his plan for Gaza’s future, Netanyahu said the impoverished and blockaded territory must be “demilitarized, deradicalized and rebuilt.”

“We will have to find a government, a civilian government that will be there,” he added, without specifying who could form it.

Israel launched its Gaza offensive after Hamas fighters crossed the heavily militarized border on October 7, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 240 hostages.

Vowing to destroy the group, Israel responded with bombings and a ground campaign that, according to the Hamas health ministry in Gaza, killed more than 11,000 people, mostly civilians, including thousands of children. .

“I do not believe that any actor will agree to govern Gaza under these circumstances,” said Hasan Khreisheh, vice president of the Palestinian Legislative Council, which has not met since 2007.

“No Palestinian, no sane person will agree to return to Gaza on an American or Israeli tank.”

In a note, International Crisis Group (ICG) analysts said there was “little hope” that the already deeply unpopular Palestinian Authority could return to Gaza following an Israeli invasion and not be “treated like an enemy”.

‘Nobody knows’

Earlier this week, Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official based in Lebanon, said the group would not accept a puppet government in the Gaza Strip and would remain in the territory.

“Our people will not allow the United States to impose its plans to create an administration that suits it and the occupation (Israel),” he said.

The United States, Britain, Israel and others have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

Saleh al-Aruri, the group’s exiled deputy head of political affairs, suggested that the future of Hamas cannot be divorced from that of the Palestinian people as a whole. “To talk about post-Hamas is to talk about post-Palestine,” he said.

On Friday, the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, which fights alongside Hamas, pledged to reject any power imposed on the territory.

“If an international force were to be deployed to govern Gaza… the Palestinian people would view it as an occupying force and would oppose it,” said Mohammad al-Hindi, the group’s deputy secretary-general.

Jamal al-Fadi, a professor of politics and international relations in the Gaza Strip, believes that even if the Palestinian Authority agreed to regain control of Gaza, it would not do so without a possible agreement with Hamas.

Without it, he told AFP, the Palestinian Authority “would run the risk of a new civil war.”

Majed al-Aruri, a human rights activist based in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said everyone knows how the last war started, “but no one knows how or under what conditions it will end “.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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