ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Netanyahu: Can’t say for certain if Iran was involved in planning October 7 attacks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel’s aim of destroying Hamas in the Gaza Strip will not change and that expanding IDF ground operations in Gaza will not get in the way of bringing back the hostages.

“Widening the ground offensive does not clash in any way with our ability to return the hostages,” he says, saying the war has two goals: the “supreme goal” to destroy Hamas’s capabilities, and the imperative to return the hostages. “I’m sure we’ll succeed in both.”

Asked about IDF intelligence and Shin Bet chiefs ostensibly writing recently to warn of the potential for a major Hamas attack, he says “that’s not accurate.”

Without being asked, he also denies wanting to strengthen Hamas, and says he oversaw repeated rounds of conflict against it. “In retrospect, it wasn’t enough. Now we’ll finish the work.”

Responding to a question about Iran’s involvement in the October 7 attacks, Netanyahu says “Iran supports Hamas… provides over 90% of Hamas’s budget. It finances, it organizes, it directs, it guides.

“I cannot tell you for certain that in this specific operation, at this particular moment, they were involved in the micro-planning.”

But, he adds, there is no Hamas without Iran. And no Hezbollah either. “That’s the axis of evil, against the free world and the moderates in the Arab world.”

That’s why Israel must defeat Hamas — for the sake of Israel but also for the benefit of Western civilization, he says.

Turning to the economy, Netanyahu also says he is in favor of closing some government ministries and increasing government spending.

“The only economy that interests me now is the economy of munitions,” he says.

He asserts that the economy can handle the war and pledges to invest massively in reconstruction in the Gaza border area that was devastated in the October 7 Hamas assault.

Asked again about the hostages, he is asked whether contacts on a possible deal will continue even as the war expands, and says yes.

He is also asked about a potential deal of “all for all” — an apparent reference to a potential deal in which all hostages would be freed and all Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails would be released.

“We are discussing the issue,” he says, without relating directly to the terms, and adds that he cannot share the intelligence and considerations the cabinet is debating, and that discussing the terms of a deal “will not help to realize” one.

Responding to a final question from the press, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says the internal relations within the war cabinet are fine. “The prime minister, Minister Gantz, the ministers in the security cabinet, the war cabinet, are conducting discussions that are to the point, good and professional interpersonal relations, and in the end, we are united behind one goal, to bring the victory.”

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