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Netanyahu "will not compromise on full Israeli control" over post-war Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Saturday that he “will not compromise on full Israeli control” over Gaza and that “this is contrary to a Palestinian state.” The statement comes after President Joe Biden suggested that creative solutions could bridge wide gaps between the leaders' views on Palestinian statehood, one day earlier.

Discussing his administration's position Friday, Biden said, “There are a number of types of two-state solutions" and, asked if a two-state solution was impossible with Netanyahu in office, Biden replied, “No, it’s not.”

Two-state solution: still possible?

After Netanyahu's statement, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the United States to go further. "It is time for the United States to recognize the state of Palestine, not just talk about a two-state solution,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “The refusal to accept the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and the denial of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people, are unacceptable.”

Netanyahu has said Israel must fight until it achieves “complete victory” and Hamas no longer poses a threat but has not outlined how this will be accomplished.

Israel launched its war against Hamas after the militant group's unprecedented attack on October 7th, which resulted in the death of about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in Israel. It also saw about 250 others taken hostage.

Health authorities in Hamas-ruled Gaza say Israel's offensive has killed nearly 25,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children.

The offensive, one of the most destructive military campaigns in recent history, has pulverized much of the territory and displaced more than 80% of its population of 2.3 million people. An Israeli blockade that allows only a trickle of aid into Gaza has led to widespread hunger and outbreaks of disease, United Nations officials have said.

Netanyahu has insisted that the only way to secure the hostages’ return is by crushing Hamas through military means. More than 100 hostages, mostly women and children, were released during a brief November cease-fire in exchange for the release of Palestinian women and minors imprisoned by Israel. Israel has said that more than 130 hostages remain in Gaza, but only about 100 are believed to be alive.

Growing domestic pressure to secure the release of the remaining hostages

In a sign of the pressures Netanyahu’s government faces at home, thousands of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv calling for new elections, and others demonstrated outside the prime minister’s home, joining families of the more than 100 remaining hostages held by Hamas and other militants. They fear that Israel's military activity further endangers hostages' lives.

The protest outside Netanyahu's home in the coastal town of Caesarea grew, with police pushing a few attendees away, sparking arguments.

The protest began Friday when the father of a 28-year-old held by Hamas began, what he called, a hunger strike. Eli Shtivi pledged to eat only a quarter of a pita a day — the amount some hostages reportedly receive some days — until the prime minister agrees to meet with him.

Dozens of anti-war protesters gathered in the Israeli city of Haifa to protest Israel’s offensive, carrying signs reading “Stop genocide” and scuffling with police who tried to confiscate the placards. Police made one arrest.

Intense bombing in the South of Gaza

As part of its search for the hostages, Israel's military dropped leaflets on Gaza's southernmost town of Rafah. The leaflets, with photos of dozens of hostages, carried a message suggesting benefits for anyone who spoke up.

“You want to return home? Please report if you identified one of them,” the message read.

Hours later, Al-Majd al-Amni, a media outlet linked to the Hamas internal security force, warned Palestinians against supplying any information about Israeli soldiers held hostage in Gaza.

Meanwhile, residents of the enclave reached by phone, after a seven-day communications blackout, reported heavy bombardment and fighting between militants and Israeli troops in and around the southern city of Khan Younis and the urban refugee camp of Jabaliya in the north.

Halima Abdel-Rahman, a woman displaced from northern Gaza who has sheltered in Bani Suheila on the outskirts of Khan Younis since November, said that the bombing was intense overnight. The fighting has forced many families to leave their homes, many of which were reduced to rubble, she said.