Hanegbi: Fuel entry to Gaza essential to prevent spread of disease, which would halt war

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi gives a press conference on November 17, 2023. (Screen capture/YouTube)
National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi gives a press conference on November 17, 2023. (Screen capture/YouTube)

National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi says that the war cabinet last night agreed to a “special request” from the US to allow two trucks of fuel into Gaza each day to operate the Strip’s sewage treatment system, which is on the verge of collapse.

Hanegbi says the collapse of the system would have risked the mass spread of disease in Gaza, which would impact both the Palestinian civilians in the enclave and the thousands of Israeli troops operating there.

“If plague were to break out, we’d have to stop the war,” Hanegbi says, explaining that the IDF would not be able to continue operating amid a dire humanitarian crisis and that international outcry would reach new heights.

In an apparent effort to share the responsibility for the decision, Hanegbi says the war cabinet asked the security chiefs during last night’s meeting whether responding positively to the Biden administration’s request would harm the IDF’s military goals in Gaza.

The national security council chairman says the ministers were told by the security chiefs that it was okay to allow in the fuel, which only amounts to 2-4% of what would normally have gone in daily before the war.

Pressed to respond to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s criticism over the war cabinet’s decision to allow fuel trucks into Gaza each day, Hanegbi says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the far-right minister and explained the circumstances that led to the approval.

“I assume that he wasn’t aware of these issues,” Hanegbi says.

Smotrich called the decision “illegal” as it goes against earlier policy set by the broader security cabinet. Hanegbi dismisses the claim, saying that the higher-level war cabinet is authorized to make such decisions and that other ministers will be able to voice their opinion on the matter when the security cabinet meets tomorrow.

A reporter notes that Israel has gradually walked back various lines in the sand regarding the supply of humanitarian aid for Gaza after initially asserting that none would be allowed in as long as the hostages are not released.

Hanegbi responds that Israel must maintain diplomatic maneuverability on the world stage and could not urge over one million Palestinians to flee to southern Gaza without providing them “minimal” services there.

He clarifies that “not a drip” of water or fuel has reached northern Gaza where IDF ground troops are fighting Hamas.

The National Security Council chairman also notes how Israel has bucked international pressure since the beginning of the war, launching a ground incursion, reaching the heart of Gaza City and blowing up governing institutions despite repeated warnings from many global leaders who have been calling for restraint and for a ceasefire.

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