Israel's Netanyahu appears to backtrack on reported comment linking Hamas attack to reservist protest

U.S. President Biden visits Israel amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to backtrack on a comment he was reported to have made earlier about the need to check if a pre-war protest among army reservists pushed Hamas to carry out its attack last month.

Israel's Channel 12 and other news outlets reported that Netanyahu said there may be a need to examine whether months of protests against his government, including by reservists who said they would no longer report for regular duty, added to Hamas' motivation to carry out the Oct. 7 rampage through southern Israel that triggered the current war.

But after public backlash, Netanyahu posted on X that Hamas started a war "because it wants to kill us all and not because of any argument within us."

"Hamas was wrong - and therefore will be eliminated. Only together will we win," Netanyahu said.

Earlier, Benny Gantz, who joined Netanyahu's war cabinet from the opposition as part of an emergency government, said Netanyahu must retract his comment.

"Avoiding responsibility and slinging mud at the time of war is a blow to the country," Gantz wrote on social media platform X.

On Saturday, protesters gathered outside Netanyahu's residence, chanting "Jail Now!" in a public display of anger at the failures that led to last month's deadly attack by Hamas gunmen on Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip.

The protest, which coincided with a poll showing more than three quarters of Israelis believe Netanyahu should resign, underlined the growing public fury at their political and security leaders.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Andrew Heavens)