Will harm to Lebanon’s environment, public health force Israeli military to admit and end use of white phosphorus?

Will harm to Lebanon’s environment, public health force Israeli military to admit and end use of white phosphorus?
Impact Assessment Overview: Analyzing the scale of destruction from two white phosphorus shell detonations over Ayta Al Shab, with impact zones estimated through photographic scale references.
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Updated 06 November 2023

Will harm to Lebanon’s environment, public health force Israeli military to admit and end use of white phosphorus?

Will harm to Lebanon’s environment, public health force Israeli military to admit and end use of white phosphorus?
  • Arab News has independently verified images of attacks using advanced open-source intelligence tools
  • The Israeli military maintains it only uses the incendiaries as a smokescreen and not to target civilians

LONDON/AMSTERDAM:  Along Lebanon’s southern border with Israel, stretching from coastal Naqoura in the west to Houla in the east, adjacent to the UN-administered Blue Line, visitors have long been greeted by a striking vista of green-blanketed mountains.

Today, however, whole swathes of this landscape, covered with oaks, pines, and trees abundant with apples and olives, have been left barren — scorched by white phosphorus, allegedly rained upon the hills by Israeli forces to deprive Hezbollah militants of tree cover.

Since the Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, Hezbollah fighters sympathetic to the Palestinian militant group have been trading fire with Israeli forces along the border, raising fears of a new front in the Gaza conflict and a wider regional escalation.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, gave a live-streamed speech on Friday in Beirut’s Ashura Square in which he praised the Oct. 7 attack, but stopped short of announcing that his followers had fully joined the Israel-Hamas war. 

Geolocation Analysis: Identifying the impact sites of two white phosphorous attacks on civilian areas, using photographic evidence cross-referenced with online images and satellite imagery for precise geolocation.

He did however warn that fighting on the Lebanon-Israel border would not be limited to the scale seen so far and that further escalation in the north was a “realistic possibility.”

Despite urgent appeals for calm from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon stationed along the Blue Line, marks of these initial skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah are already visible on the landscape.

About 40,000 hectares of green field and agriculture — including 40,000 olive trees — have been burned on the Lebanese side of the border in recent weeks, according to sources close to Lebanon’s Ministry of Environment.

Key Map Overview: Locations in the Naqoura region marked to show the sites of before and after imagery, capturing the areas affected by fires resulting from Israeli shelling.

Before and After: On the left is an image captured on Oct. 7, 2023 via Sentinel-2 L2A, utilizing the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to highlight vegetation health before the incident. The second one was captured on Nov. 1, 2023 via Sentinel-2 L2A, using NDVI to illustrate the change in vegetation health before the incident.

Before and After: The image on the left, captured on Oct. 12, 2023, and obtained via Sentinel-2 L2A, shows vegetation health through NDVI prior to the shelling. The second one, from Nov. 1, 2023, secured via Sentinel-2 L2A, depicts the impact on vegetation health following the shelling, as indicated by NDVI changes.

“They really want to burn everything in front of them so that they see more clearly. And they won’t allow Hezbollah or the Lebanese army to hide behind those greeneries or bushes,” Najat Aoun Saliba, a Lebanese lawmaker and chemistry professor at the American University of Beirut, told Arab News.

According to human rights monitor Amnesty International, the Israel Defense Forces have been using shells containing white phosphorus — an incendiary weapon — against targets inside Lebanon.

“It is beyond horrific that the Israeli army has indiscriminately used white phosphorus in violation of international humanitarian law,” Aya Majzoub, deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said in a report published on Tuesday.

“The unlawful use of white phosphorus in Lebanon in the town of Dhayra on Oct. 16 has seriously endangered the lives of civilians, many of whom were hospitalized and displaced, and whose homes and cars caught fire.”



Video footage provided by the GreenSoutherns captures the extensive fires in the Naqoura region, showcasing the aftermath of the recent shelling.

Geolocation Analysis: Tracing the source of fires in Naqoura, Lebanon, by aligning markers from the video with online image databases and satellite imagery for accurate localization.

Arab News has independently verified footage and images provided by environmental activists and residents using advanced open-source intelligence techniques. This process involves geolocation of the images and videos, time-series analysis to confirm their recency and cross-referencing with open-access satellite imagery.

By overlaying these images on satellite maps and analyzing the color spectrum for events like fires, Arab News can authenticate the location, timing, and events captured in the images, ensuring the information’s accuracy and authenticity.

The Israeli military maintains that it uses the incendiaries only as a smokescreen, and not to target civilians. In a statement to the Associated Press in October, it said the main type of smokescreen shells it uses “do not contain white phosphorus,” but it did not rule out its use in some situations.

White phosphorus, when exposed to oxygen in the air, burns at extremely high temperatures, illuminating targets concealed in darkness. When burning, it also creates a dense white cloud that militaries often use to mask maneuvers, but which can be lethal if inhaled.

People who have been exposed to white phosphorus “suffer respiratory damage, organ failure and other horrific and life-changing injuries, including burns that are extremely difficult to treat and cannot be put out with water,” according to the Amnesty report.

Geolocation Analysis: Pinpointing the exact locations of fires in Ayta Al Shab as depicted in the circulating video, utilizing landmark comparison with online images and satellite imagery for precise confirmation.

Lebanese lawmaker Saliba described the effect of the chemical agent on the human body. “White phosphorus is able to dissolve the skin, meaning that it will eat up the skin all the way to the bones and this is higher than third or fourth degree burning,” she told Arab News.

“You may not feel it the first day but the second day it will create this stomach ache and then vomiting and then you know that the phosphorus is inside your body, and there is very little you can do to save yourself from it.”

Saliba said that the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health has been making preparations to treat patients who may come into contact with white phosphorus, and has launched awareness campaigns for those living close to the border and other targeted areas.

Lebanese lawmaker and chemistry professor Najat Aoun Saliba. (AFP/file)

The Amnesty report detailed accounts of those treated at hospitals near the towns Dhayra, Yarine and Marwahin, where white phosphorus shelling has allegedly taken place.

“We were not able to see even our own hands due to the heavy white smoke that covered the town all night long and lasted till this morning (Oct. 17),” the regional director of the country’s civil defense told Amnesty.

Beyond the immediate harm caused by white phosphorus to human health and public infrastructure, the weapon can also have a long-term impact on the environment. This is having a devastating impact on the farming communities who have tilled Lebanon’s fertile hills for generations.

“Israel is purposefully tearing apart the ecosystem and destroying a land that’s been preserved for hundreds of years,” Hisham Younes, director of the Green Southerners, a civil society group that aims to preserve wildlife and cultural heritage in the south of Lebanon, told Arab News.

“What’s happening is the destruction of heritage and culture. The danger is great but the effects even greater.”

Israeli artillery shells, which appear to contain white phosphorus, explode over Dhayra, a Lebanese border village, on Oct. 16, wounding civilians, according to Amnesty International. (AP)

White phosphorus shells, right, have reportedly been used by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza and southern Lebanon, damaging farmland already scarred by the 2006 war. (Getty Images/AFP)

Southern Lebanon suffered massive ecological damage during the last large-scale confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. More than one thousand hectares of forest and olive grove were destroyed by explosives and bushfires, according to a 2007 study by the Association for Forests, Development and Conservation.

It took four years to begin repairing the damage, with UNIFIL establishing an extensive reforestation project in the region in 2010. This time, however, the country may not be able to bounce back so easily.

“We have not recovered from the Beirut blast, and have not recovered from the 2006 war even,” said Saliba, referring to the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion at the Port of Beirut, which devastated a whole district of the Lebanese capital.

The disaster compounded the woes of a country already in the grips of its worst ever financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and a state of political paralysis, which has prevented lawmakers from establishing a new government.

Given Lebanon’s weakness, combined with Israel’s military superiority, Saliba believes only diplomacy can save the Lebanese people and their environment from disaster and destruction.

“I think Israel has used criminal or banned weapons everywhere. They’re not going to have mercy on us. So, if there is any way we can save the country from this devastation by doing all the diplomatic efforts, I think we should,” she said.

“It’s a historic moment and we should not spare any chance, any opportunity, to save the country from this war.”


Turkiye, Somalia to deepen military bonds after historic deal

Turkiye, Somalia to deepen military bonds after historic deal
Updated 23 February 2024

Turkiye, Somalia to deepen military bonds after historic deal

Turkiye, Somalia to deepen military bonds after historic deal
  • Ankara needs to ratify deal approved by African nation
  • Turkiye expanding military, economic footprint in Africa, say experts

Ankara: With Somalia partnering with Turkiye to help build its sea and naval capabilities, questions have now arisen about the potential regional impact of the tie-up, and why Ankara is expanding its military footprint overseas, including seeking a greater presence in the Red Sea.

Somalia’s cabinet approved on Wednesday the historic defense deal that authorized Turkiye to defend the African nation’s coastline for the next decade, amid tensions with Ethiopia, and mandated it to build a navy for the country.

Turkiye, whose navy has been operating off Somalia’s shores and in the Gulf of Aden under the UN mission since 2009, will not only build the African country’s navy but also train and equip personnel to counter illegal fishing in the latter’s territorial waters.

Turkiye has also been training Somalia’s soldiers for a few years in a bid to help the country develop its army.

Ankara also has its largest overseas military base in Mogadishu, while a Turkish company is operating the airport of the capital city.

“This agreement will put an end to the fear of terrorism, pirates, illegal fishing, poisoning, abuse and threats from abroad,” Somalia’s Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre was quoted by local press as saying during the cabinet meeting.

“Somalia will have a true ally, a friend, and a brother in the international arena,” he added.

Although the details of the agreement have yet to be disclosed, Somalia’s press claimed that the deal would give Turkiye 30 percent of the revenues coming from the Somali exclusive economic zone, which is rich in marine resources.

Considered a gateway to the continent, Somalia’s 3,025-km coastline is the longest in Africa.

The agreement needs to be ratified by Turkiye’s parliament and the president before being finalized.

Hakan Akbas, a senior advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group, said that this pact shows Turkiye’s growing ambition to become a key player in the Horn of Africa, enhancing its ties with Somalia and Ethiopia but excluding some Ethiopian agreements troubling Mogadishu.

“Turkiye’s recent strategic moves aim to bolster Somalia’s military, promote stability, and protect its interests through security, economic, and humanitarian efforts,” he added.

According to Akbas, this agreement reflects Turkiye’s bold foreign policy and strategy to establish key military and economic partnerships aimed at securing its interests in the region.

“This gives Somalia a very essential partner in matters of national security, counter-piracy, anti-terrorism, and border protection, including against illegal fishing. It is a win-win for both nations,” he said.

Earlier this month, Somalia’s Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur signed the framework agreement in Ankara that mandated Turkiye to protect Somalia’s territorial waters.

For Rashid Abdi, chief analyst at Sahan Research, a Nairobi-based think tank, the deal gives Turkiye huge leverage to reshape Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

“Turkish navy will help rebuild Somali navy and will deploy ships to patrol its maritime Economic Protection Zone. Turkiye is now positioned to become Somalia’s top strategic partner,” he told Arab News.

However tensions still remain high in the region especially after Ethiopia and the breakaway Somaliland reached an agreement granting landlocked Addis Ababa access to the Red Sea and ensuring the recognition of Somaliland as an independent state.

Somaliland is still recognized internationally as part of Somalia although it controversially declared its independence in 1991. The deal had infuriated Somalia which considered it a breach of its territorial sovereignty.

As Ankara also has close ties with Ethiopia and provided it with military drones in 2022, how Turkiye will find a balance between the national interests of both countries remains to be seen especially regarding maritime violations.

Abdi thinks that the agreement will put Turkiye in a tight spot if Ankara seeks to enforce Somali sovereignty in breakaway Somaliland.

“It will also be viewed as provocative by Ethiopia which wants a military base on the Somaliland coast close to Bab Al-Mandeb,” he said.

“Turkiye has huge commercial interest in Ethiopia. Turkiye helped Ethiopian premier end the conflict in Tigray. For the time being, Turkiye will be walking a tightrope. It is therefore uncertain how Ankara will balance the competing demands of its two Horn allies — Ethiopia and Somalia. Ethiopia is a big market, home of the African Union and a regional hegemon. Upsetting Ethiopia and countering its regional interests in Somaliland will put Addis Ababa on a confrontation course with Ankara,” he added.

In December, the UN Security Council lifted its three-decade arms embargo on Somalia’s government.

“The latest defense deal with Somalia is anchored in a meticulously crafted intellectual framework spanning a decade,” said international relations professor Serhat Guvenc of Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

“Ankara recently announced the provision of a second batch of MILGEM corvettes to the Ukrainian navy. Turkiye’s forthcoming endeavor to assist Somalia in bolstering its naval forces will mark the country’s second significant contribution to a foreign navy,” he added.

According to Guvenc, Turkiye’s strategy in Africa began with bolstering trade and economic ties before seeking to provide military training and high-end Turkish weapons systems.

“Turkiye recently constructed Istanbul-class frigates for its naval forces exemplifying the country’s expanding maritime prowess extending from Istanbul to the Gulf of Aden without requiring refueling stops,” he said.

Turkiye also took part in the multinational Combined Task Force 151 to prevent piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern coast of Somalia. Turkiye took command of the task force six times.

“Turkish Naval Forces have shown a high effectiveness and even in instances where Turkiye didn’t commit ships, its commanders were preferred due to their intimate understanding of regional challenges,” said Guvenc.

Despite acknowledging the strategic significance of the deal, experts caution that its implementation demands substantial investment and logistical capabilities from Turkiye.

“In 2014, Turkish Naval Forces started its circumnavigation of Africa and toured the continent twice. But this time, Turkiye needs to double and maybe triple its naval forces for effective outreach across the vast region,” Guvenc said.

“Overseas bases give countries a significant prestige and put them among countries which have outreach to the remote regions of the world. It is a key indicator for the power hierarchies because it means that the country is able to project strategic power from its naval influence,” he added.

However, Guvenc sees some “political” risks with the deal.

“Turkiye has traditionally refrained from taking part in intra-African conflicts. It has always taken a standing that was above conflicts. But it remains to be seen to what extent it could safeguard Somali interests by force or whether it would have to be involved in local conflicts. It is also technically difficult to protect the exclusive economic zone of Somalia which intersects with issues like illegal fishing activities and potential clashes with other nations in the region,” he said.

Hamas awaiting new truce proposal from mediators’ talks with Israel

Hamas awaiting new truce proposal from mediators’ talks with Israel
Updated 23 February 2024

Hamas awaiting new truce proposal from mediators’ talks with Israel

Hamas awaiting new truce proposal from mediators’ talks with Israel
  • Mediators ramp up efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, in the hope of heading off an Israeli assault on Rafah

CAIRO/RAFAH, Gaza Strip: Hamas wrapped up ceasefire talks in Cairo and is now waiting to see what mediators bring back from weekend talks with Israel, an official from the militant group said on Friday, in what appears to be the most serious push for weeks to halt the fighting.

Mediators have ramped up efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, in the hope of heading off an Israeli assault on the Gaza city of Rafah where more than a million displaced people are sheltering at the southern edge of the enclave.

An Israeli delegation led by the head of the country’s overseas intelligence agency arrived in Paris on Friday to “unblock” talks for a ceasefire in Gaza, an Israeli official said.

Mossad director David Barnea will be joined in the French capital by his counterpart at the domestic Shin Bet security agency, Ronen Bar, Israeli media reported.

Israel says it will attack the city if no truce agreement is reached soon. Washington has called on its close ally not to do so, warning of vast civilian casualties if an assault on the city goes ahead.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met Egyptian mediators in Cairo to discuss a truce this past week on his first visit since December. Israel is now expected to participate in talks this weekend in Paris with US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

Two Egyptian security sources confirmed that Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel would head on Friday to Paris for the talks with the Israelis, after wrapping up talks with Hamas chief Haniyeh on Thursday. Israel has not publicly commented on the Paris talks.

The Hamas official, who asked not to be identified, said the militant group did not offer any new proposal at the talks with the Egyptians, but was waiting to see what the mediators brought back from their upcoming talks with the Israelis.

“We discussed our proposal with them (the Egyptians) and we are going to wait until they return from Paris,” the Hamas official said.

The last time similar talks were held in Paris, at the start of February, they produced an outline for the first extended ceasefire of the war, approved by Israel and the United States. Hamas responded with a counterproposal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then rejected as “delusional.”

Hamas, which is still believed to be holding more than 100 hostages seized in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that precipitated the war, says it will free them only as part of a truce that ends with an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel says it will not pull out until Hamas is eradicated.

Late on Thursday, Netanyahu presented his security cabinet with an official plan for Gaza once the fighting stops. He emphasized that Israel expects to maintain security control over the enclave after destroying Hamas, and also sees no role for there for the Palestinian Authority (PA) based in the West Bank.

Washington favors a role for a reformed PA.

Two Palestinian officials familiar with the negotiations said Hamas has not changed its stance in the latest push to reach a deal, and still demands that a truce end with an Israeli pullout.


Israeli planes and tanks pounded areas across Gaza Strip overnight, residents and health officials said. The Gaza health ministry said 104 people had been killed and 160 others were wounded in Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours.

In Rafah, where over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are sheltering, an Israeli air strike on a house killed 10 people. Several other air strikes hit throughout the city, worsening fears by the displaced people of expanded Israeli ground operations.

At a morgue in Rafah, a family knelt by the body of their child, killed by overnight Israeli strikes. They tenderly touched and stroked the small body through a shroud.

Airstrikes also killed civilians overnight in Deir Al-Balah, in central Gaza, one of the few other areas yet to be stormed by the Israelis. In video obtained by Reuters, bereaved families crowded a hospital, where Ahmed Azzam held up the body of his dead baby son wrapped in a shroud, shouting: “You killed them Netanyahu. You killed this innocent child!“

At least 29,514 Palestinians have been killed and 69,616 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct.7, the Gaza health ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Israel launched its months-long military campaign after militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in southern Israel on Oct 7.

In a summary of its operations in Gaza over the past 24 hours, the Israeli military said it had killed dozens of militants, located weapons and destroyed infrastructure in Khan Younis, western Khan Younis, central Gaza and Zaytoun in the north, where it also uncovered tunnel shafts.

Hezbollah says 2 paramedics, fighter dead in Israeli strike on Lebanon

Hezbollah says 2 paramedics, fighter dead in Israeli strike on Lebanon
Updated 23 February 2024

Hezbollah says 2 paramedics, fighter dead in Israeli strike on Lebanon

Hezbollah says 2 paramedics, fighter dead in Israeli strike on Lebanon
  • Israeli army said late Thursday it had struck a Hezbollah “military compound” in south Lebanon’s Blida

Beirut: Two paramedics affiliated with Hezbollah and one of the group’s fighters have been killed in an Israeli strike on a south Lebanon border village, the group and a security source said Friday.
The Israeli army said late Thursday it had struck a Hezbollah “military compound” in south Lebanon’s Blida, amid near-daily cross-border fire between the arch foes since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7.
The Hezbollah-affiliated Islamic Health Committee said two of its paramedics were killed in a “direct” Israeli attack on a civil defense center in Blida, while Hezbollah also announced the death of one of its fighters.
The Islamic Health Committee said the attack caused “the destruction of the health center as well as a number of ambulances.”
The Lebanese security source, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said a strike on Thursday “targeted the Islamic Health Committee center in the village of Blida.”
The Israeli army said late Thursday that it had identified fighters “entering a Hezbollah military compound in the area of Blida.”
“Fighter jets were scrambled and struck the compound where the terrorists were identified,” it said in a statement.
Hezbollah said it launched a drone attack on northern Israel on Friday in retaliation for strikes “on southern villages and civilian houses, most recently the attack on a civil defense center in Blida.”
The night before, the Iran-backed group said it fired rockets at an Israeli barracks in response to the Blida attack, but did not announced any casualties at the time.
The violence on Israel’s northern border has sparked fears of another full-blown war between Israel and Hezbollah like that of 2006.
Last month, the Shiite Muslim movement said an Israeli strike killed two affiliated medics in south Lebanon’s Hanin, calling it a “blatant attack.”
The Lebanese group, which says it is acting in support of its ally Hamas, on Thursday had already announced rocket fire on Israel after two of its fighters were killed, later calling one of them a “commander” in a funeral notice.
The security source said one of the two killed in an Israeli drone strike in south Lebanon’s Kfar Rumman was involved in the movement’s “rocket capabilities.”
Since October, at least 276 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.

Sudan’s warring sides commit abuses, including strikes on fleeing civilians, UN report says

Sudan’s warring sides commit abuses, including strikes on fleeing civilians, UN report says
Updated 23 February 2024

Sudan’s warring sides commit abuses, including strikes on fleeing civilians, UN report says

Sudan’s warring sides commit abuses, including strikes on fleeing civilians, UN report says
  • Efforts have so far failed to end the 10-month-old conflict that pits Sudan’s regular armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces

GENEVA: Both sides in Sudan’s civil war have committed abuses that may amount to war crimes including indiscriminate attacks on civilian sites like hospitals, markets and even camps for the displaced, the UN human rights office said on Friday.
Efforts have so far failed to end the 10-month-old conflict that pits Sudan’s regular armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Thousands of people have been killed and over six million forced to flee their homes, making it the country with the largest displaced population in the world.
“Some of these violations would amount to war crimes,” Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement accompanying the report. “The guns must be silenced, and civilians must be protected.”
The US has already formally determined that the warring parties have committed war crimes and said the RSF and allied militias were involved in ethnic cleansing in West Darfur. Both sides have said they would investigate reports of killings and abuses and prosecute any fighters found to be involved.
The United Nations report covers the April-December period and is based on interviews with over 300 victims and witnesses as well as footage and satellite imagery.
It says that sometimes those fleeing for their lives or displaced by the violence became victims of explosive weapons attacks.
In one incident, dozens of displaced people were killed when their camp in Zalingei, Darfur was shelled by RSF between Sept. 14-17, the report said. Some 26 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed on Aug. 22 by shells reportedly fired by the Sudanese Armed Forces while sheltering under a bridge.
The report also says the RSF had adopted a military strategy of using human shields, citing testimonies of victims involved.
It describes incidents in the capital Khartoum where dozens of individuals were arrested and placed outside near RSF military posts to deter air strikes from Sudanese fighter jets.
UN investigators have so far documented cases of sexual violence affecting 118 people, including one women who was detained and repeatedly gang-raped for weeks. Many of the rapes were committed by RSF members, it said.
Reuters has also documented cases of gang rape in ethnically targeted attacks by RSF forces and allied Arab militia.
The war erupted last April over disputes about the powers of the army and the RSF under an internationally-backed plan for a political transition toward civilian rule and free elections.

Israel’s Netanyahu presents first official post-Gaza war plan

Israel’s Netanyahu presents first official post-Gaza war plan
Updated 23 February 2024

Israel’s Netanyahu presents first official post-Gaza war plan

Israel’s Netanyahu presents first official post-Gaza war plan
  • Netanayhu rejects the “unilateral recognition” of a Palestinian state
  • Replace Hamas rule in Gaza while maintaining public order

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented a “day after” plan for Gaza, his first official proposal for when the war in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory ends.
According to the document, presented to members of Israel’s security cabinet on Thursday and seen by Reuters on Friday, Israel would maintain security control over all land west of Jordan, including the occupied West Bank and Gaza — territories where the Palestinians want to create an independent state.
In the long-term goals listed, Netanayhu rejects the “unilateral recognition” of a Palestinian state. He says a settlement with the Palestinians will only be achieved through direct negotiations between the two sides — but it did not name who the Palestinian party would be.
In Gaza, Netanyahu outlines demilitarization and deradicalization as goals to be achieved in the medium term. He does not elaborate on when that intermediary stage would begin or how long it would last. But he conditions the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, much of which has been laid to waste by Israel’s offensive, on its complete demilitarization.
Netanyahu proposes Israel have a presence on the Gaza-Egypt border in the south of the enclave and cooperates with Egypt and the United States in that area to prevent smuggling attempts, including at the Rafah crossing.
To replace Hamas rule in Gaza while maintaining public order, Netanyahu suggests working with local representatives “who are not affiliated with terrorist countries or groups and are not financially supported by them.”
He calls for shutting down the UN Palestinian refugees agency UNRWA and replacing it with other international aid groups.
“The prime minister’s document of principles reflects broad public consensus over the goals of the war and for replacing Hamas rule in Gaza with a civilian alternative,” a statement by the Prime Minister’s office said.
The document was distributed to security cabinet members to start a discussion on the issue.
The war was triggered by a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage, according to Israeli counts.
Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has responded with an air and ground assault on blockaded Gaza that has killed more than 29,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities. The offensive has displaced most of the territory’s population and caused widespread hunger and disease.
The spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told Reuters that Netanyahu’s proposal was doomed to fail, as were any Israeli plans to change the geographic and demographic realities in Gaza.
“If the world is genuinely interested in having security and stability in the region, it must end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and recognize an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.
The war in Gaza has revived international calls — including Israel’s main backer the United States — for the so-called two-state solution as the ultimate goal for resolving the decades long Israel-Palestinian conflict. However, a number of senior Israeli politicians oppose this.
The two-state solution has long been a core Western policy in the region but little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s.