Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Sunday on CNN that Hamas is only calling for humanitarian pauses in Gaza to let up the fighting against the group.
Asked by CNN's Dana Bash if Israel would consider implementing longer pauses in fighting to allow the evacuation of more civilians from fighting hotspots in Gaza, Netanyahu said:
"That's not a pause. If you're talking about stopping the fighting, that's exactly what Hamas wants. Hamas wants an endless series of pauses that basically dissipate the battle against them."
Netanyahu also addressed other key wartime topics during the interview:
Netanyahu reiterated that Israel will not agree to a "ceasefire in the entire area" of Gaza until all Israeli hostages have been released.
He also outlined Israel's primary objectives in Gaza, saying they were to:
- First, destroy Hamas so it cannot carry out attacks like October 7 again
- Second, implement "an overriding and over reaching Israeli military envelope" to ensure that "terrorism" does not resurge in Gaza post-war.
- Third, ensure any civilian authority taking over control of Gaza would agree to "demilitarize" and "de-radicalize" the enclave.
He then accused the Palestinian Authority (PA), which used to control Gaza and is based in the occupied West Bank, of failing "on both counts," seeming to rule out a post-war role for the PA in Gaza — an idea US officials have indicated they would support.
"There's no reason why we just can't take the patients out of there instead of letting Hamas use it as a command center for terrorism," Netanyahu said.
The prime minister said Israel is helping patients "by creating safe corridors" for evacuation.
While the Israeli military earlier Sunday said one such corridor was opened in the area of Al-Shifa, the International Committee of the Red Cross said no one had left through it.
Heavy fighting near the medical center has left it in a “catastrophic situation,” with patients and staff trapped inside, ambulances unable to collect the wounded and life-support systems without electricity, health officials in Gaza and aid agencies are reporting.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has described the situation as a "complete siege" of the hospital.
On civilian casualties: Netanyahu said Sunday that civilian casualties in Gaza are being "reduced" because of Israel's calls for civilians to move south.
"I think the number of civilian casualties is actually being reduced because people are heeding our calls to leave the area," Netanyahu said.
It’s unclear how many combatants are included in the total. CNN cannot independently verify the numbers released by the ministry in Gaza, which is sealed off by Israel and mostly sealed by Egypt.