Israel PM says Hamas must be destroyed for peace; US, Iran-backed militants clash

Israel PM says Hamas must be destroyed for peace; US, Iran-backed militants clash
# 26 December 2023 10:17 (UTC +04:00)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to keep fighting in Gaza until Hamas is destroyed, defying global calls for a ceasefire amid concerns the conflict could spread with U.S. and Iran-aligned forces again attacking each other, APA reports citing Reuters.

Netanyahu, who visited Israeli troops in northern Gaza on Monday, told lawmakers from his Likud Party that the war was far from over and dismissed what he cast as media speculation his government might call a halt to the fighting.

He said Israel would not succeed in freeing its remaining hostages held by Hamas without applying military pressure.

"We are not stopping. The war will continue until the end, until we finish it, no less," Netanyahu.

Retaliating against Hamas for its deadly Oct. 7 cross-border rampage, Israel has been under pressure from its closest ally the United States to shift operations in Gaza to a lower-intensity phase and reduce civilian deaths.

Nearly 20,700 Gazans have been killed, including 250 in the last 24 hours, according to authorities in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

U.S. forces have come under attack by Iran-backed militants in Iraq and Syria over Washington's backing of Israel in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In the latest tit-for-tat clash, the U.S. military carried out retaliatory air strikes on Monday in Iraq after a drone attack by Iran-aligned militants on a U.S. base in Erbil left one U.S. service member in critical condition and wounded two other U.S. personnel, officials said.

The air strikes killed "a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants" and destroyed multiple facilities used by the group, the U.S. military said.

Hezbollah has deep ties to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian faction backed by Iran.

The U.S. military has come under attack at least 100 times in Iraq and Syria since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, usually with a mix of rockets and one-way attack drones.

Washington has for weeks pressured Israel to take further steps to minimise civilian harm by designating safe areas and clearing humanitarian routes for people to escape. But the death toll keeps rising and Israeli operations have intensified.

A spokesperson for the Israeli military said the army takes all feasible precautions to minimise harm to civilians, but that Palestinian militants use civilians as human shields, an accusation Hamas denies.

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