Netanyahu Says Current Phase of War Against Hamas Nearly Over

The prime minister says some troops will be redeployed from Rafah to the northern border with Lebanon to tackle an escalation in fighting with Hezbollah.
Netanyahu Says Current Phase of War Against Hamas Nearly Over
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre, in Ramat Gan, Israel, on June 8, 2024. (Jack Guez -Pool/Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on June 24 that the current phase of the war against Hamas in Gaza is nearly over and that some Israeli troops in Rafah will be redeployed to Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where fighting with the Iran-backed Hezbollah has escalated.

During an interview with Israeli broadcaster Now 14, also known as Channel 14, on June 23, Mr. Netanyahu said that after the current phase in Gaza is finished, Israel will have the possibility of transferring some of its forces north and that it “will do that.”

He didn’t provide a specific timeline, saying that Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip would continue.

Mr. Netanyahu said the decision was “first and foremost for defensive purposes.” The secondary purpose of moving more troops to the northern border is to facilitate the return of displaced Israeli residents, who had to be evacuated because of Hezbollah’s cross-border attacks.
The attacks violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which prohibits armed personnel, assets, and weapons in the demilitarized zone from south of the Litani River to the Blue Line border with Israel, except for U.N. peacekeeping forces and the Lebanese government, which are authorized to maintain security.
Both the United States and Israel designate Hezbollah as a Lebanese terrorist group.

Mr. Netanyahu said that Israel is willing to pursue a diplomatic solution with Hezbollah but that Israel would be demanding that any resolution include the “physical removal of Hezbollah from the border.”

“If we can, we will do this diplomatically. If not, we will do it another way. But we will bring [our residents] home,” he stated.

Mr. Netanyahu said earlier this month that his country is ready to intensify military action along the northern border.

“We are prepared for very intense action in the north. One way or another, we will restore security to the north,” he said, while visiting a military base in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel on June 5.

Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is also organized as a political entity within the struggling Lebanese government, has intensified attacks at the Lebanese border with Israel since October 2023. This escalation comes as much of Israel’s military forces are focused southward on their military campaign in the Gaza Strip against Hamas, another U.S. and Israeli-designated terrorist group.

Hezbollah has said that it is acting in support of the Palestinian people—and not just the Iran-backed Hamas—and vowed to persist in its strikes across the Lebanese–Israeli border until Israel ceases its military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The United States had hoped that a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of the remaining Israeli hostages by Hamas would help bring calm to the situation and allow displaced residents from northern Israel and southern Lebanon to return home.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on June 4 that they have been trying to keep fighting in the north “from moving—from shelling across the border and airstrikes across the border—to a full-fledged conflagration.”
Israeli forces check a building that was hit by a Hezbollah rocket in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel, near the Lebanon border, on March 27, 2024. (JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli forces check a building that was hit by a Hezbollah rocket in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel, near the Lebanon border, on March 27, 2024. (JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images)

“There are tens of thousands of Israelis who have been forced to move from their homes because it’s not safe to live there—they could return home—and a number of Lebanese who have been forced to flee their homes in southern Lebanon who would be able to return home, too,” Mr. Miller told reporters.

“So it’s something that we’re pursuing. But it is really difficult to do as long as there is continued fighting in Gaza.”

However, the Israeli leader said on June 21 that his military “will not leave the Gaza Strip” until it returns all the hostages, “living and deceased,” to their families.
The Israel Defense Forces said on June 20 that its troops had raided and dismantled the Hamas Tel al-Sultan Battalion’s training compound in Rafah and that it found a large number of weapons, several tunnel shafts used to carry out attacks against IDF troops, and intelligence documents during the raid. It also claimed to have located the office of the commander of the Tel al-Sultan Battalion.

Hamas terrorists killed about 1,200 people and abducted more than 250 hostages during its attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. That triggered an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza, which, according to the Hamas-run health department, has now resulted in more than 37,500 deaths; this number includes both combatants and civilians.

The Associated Press, Reuters, and Ryan Morgan contributed to this report.