Netanyahu says war in Gaza is winding down but warns of conflict with Hezbollah

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference, with an Israeli flag behind him
Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel can and will fight on several fronts - Jack Guez/Avalon

Israel is winding down its operations against Hamas in Gaza and will be able to re-deploy troops to the northern border with Lebanon soon, Benjamin Netanyahu has said.

In a rare interview on Israeli television, Mr Netanyahu said the phase of intense fighting in the Gaza Strip would be over “very soon”.

“We will have the possibility of transferring some of our forces north, and we will do that,” he told Israel’s Channel 14, a Right-wing broadcaster.

“First and foremost, for defensive purposes,” he added, but also to allow tens of thousands of displaced Israelis to return home.

Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire on an almost daily basis since the Hamas attack on Oct 7 that triggered the war in Gaza, but the fighting has intensified in recent weeks, raising fears of a full-blown conflict.

Hezbollah has launched over 3,300 projectiles towards Israel since October, causing the worst conflict since the 2006 war ended.

But Hezbollah is much stronger than Hamas, and opening a new front would raise the risk of a larger, region-wide war involving other Iranian proxies and perhaps Iran itself.

Mr Netanyahu said he hoped a diplomatic solution to the crisis could be found but vowed to solve the problem “in a different way” if needed. ″We can fight on several fronts and we are prepared to do that,” he said.

He said any deal would not just be “an agreement on paper”. He said it would require Hezbollah to be far from the border, an enforcement mechanism and the return of Israelis back to their homes.

Hezbollah has said it will continue battling Israel until a ceasefire is reached in Gaza.

However, Mr Netanyahu reiterated that the war would not end until the terror group had been totally eliminated.

“I am not willing to end the war and leave Hamas as it is,” he said.

Mr Netanyahu has always said the two war aims were to dismantle Hamas and to bring back the remaining 120 hostages.

On Oct 7, more than 1,200 people – most of them civilians – were killed after Hamas terrorists stormed across the border into Israel, taking over 250 people hostage.

“I’m ready to make a partial deal to return some of the people to us but we are forced to continue this war after the truce to reach our goal which is removing Hamas.

“I’m not ready to compromise,” Mr Netanyahu said, while talks for a ceasefire remain gridlocked.