Israel intends to end all responsibility for Gaza as part of a “new regional reality” it expects to emerge after its war with Hamas militants, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Friday.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 before soon afterwards imposing a land, sea and air blockade on the enclave that was intensified in 2007, when Hamas took power.
But according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Gaza “remains occupied,” due to the restrictions, and Israel is therefore bound by international law to protect its 2.4 million residents.
Yet nearly two weeks after the latest Gaza conflict erupted, Gallant outlined “three stages” of the hostilities which will see Israel abandon its obligations.
His remarks come after Hamas militants infiltrated Israel’s southern border on October 7, killing at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians slain on the day of the largest attack in Israel’s history, according to Israeli officials.
Israel has responded with a relentless aerial bombardment of Gaza that has so far killed over 4,100 people, according to the health ministry in the besieged enclave.
Gallant on Friday said the initial and current phase of incessant strikes across the Palestinian territory would be followed by “neutralising terrorists and destroying Hamas infrastructure.”
The subsequent stage will take not “a day, nor a week, nor a month,” Gallant told parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee.
After hitting “pockets of resistance,” the defense minister foresaw “the end of Israel’s responsibilities in the Gaza Strip.”
The military campaign will “put in place a new security reality for the citizens of Israel,” Gallant said.
An Israeli foreign ministry source, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said Israel envisaged “handing over the keys” to neighboring Egypt.
Israel’s military last week ordered more than a million residents of northern Gaza to flee to the south, prompting Palestinians to argue the army was seeking the permanent mass displacement of residents.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said he will not allow any influx of refugees from Gaza, without commenting on any potential future role Cairo may play in the enclave.
Palestinians have also faced tight border restrictions imposed by Egypt, at Gaza’s southern Rafah crossing.