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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel-Hamas war: Netanyahu says war to last for 'months'

Published December 31, 2023last updated December 31, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel seeks to control the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt in order to enforce "demilitirazation."

An Israeli soldier standing in the Gaza Strip near Israeli tanks amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas militants
Israeli officials have argued that ending the war now would mean victory for HamasImage: Israel Defense Forces/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • .Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel will continue fighting until achieving its war aims, adding that it wants to control a buffer zone around the Egypt-Gaza border
  • US shoots down two missiles fired at a container ship from a Houthi-controlled part of Yemen

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You can find DW's full coverage of the Israel-Hamas war here

Skip next section Israeli faces trial for impersonating elite combat soldier
December 31, 2023

Israeli faces trial for impersonating elite combat soldier

Israeli prosecutors have filed  criminal charges against a man accused of impersonating a soldier to join the war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.

The indictment brought in Tel Aviv District Court argues that defendant Roi Yifrah never served in the Israeli military but managed to make his way into the war zone.

The prosecution said he did this by pretending to be a member of an elite combat unit belonging to Shin Bet, the domestic intelligence agency.

The 35-year-old is also accused of stealing munitions and, according to Israeli media, of posing for a picture on the frontline with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Local media aired a photo of Yifrah in full battle gear, posing with other soldiers alongside Netanyahu at a helicopter landing site.

An Israeli official insisted the prime minister was never at risk due to "several layers of security at the site."

Yifrah faces several charges, including aggravated fraud and larceny, and could face up to 36 years in jail.

Skip next section Israeli far-right minister wants more Jewish settlers, fewer Arabs in Gaza
December 31, 2023

Israeli far-right minister wants more Jewish settlers, fewer Arabs in Gaza

Israel's far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich urged the return of Jewish settlers to the Gaza Strip after the ongoing war.

In a radio interview on Sunday, Smotrich said the Palestinian population should be encouraged to emigrate outside of Gaza.

"To have security we must control the territory," Smotrich told Israel's Army Radio in response to a question about the prospect of re-establishing settlements in Gaza. "In order to control the territory militarily for a long time, we need a civilian presence."

Smotrich is the head of the ultranationalist Religious Zionism Party, which is part of the ruling coalition. 

"If we act in a strategically correct way and encourage emigration, if there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not two million, the whole discourse of the day after [the war] will be completely different," he said.

"We will help rehabilitate these refugees in other countries in a good and humane manner with the cooperation of the international community and Arab countries around us."

Israeli presence in Gaza began in 1967 and lasted until 2005, when all troops and settlers were withdrawn. Hamas won the election in January 2006, and established full control over the strip after a clash with the more moderate Fatah faction in 2007.

All settlements on occupied Palestinian land are regarded as illegal under international law, regardless of whether they were approved by Israel.

Skip next section Israel appoints new foreign minister
December 31, 2023

Israel appoints new foreign minister

The Israeli government has approved the appointment of Israel Katz as a new foreign minister, to succeed Eli Cohen.

Cohen will, in turn, replace Katz as Energy Minister. Cohen, however, will continue to serve as a member of the security Cabinet.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition government agreed last year to rotate the two positions. The appointments are subject to the Israeli parliament's approval.

On Sunday, the Cabinet also approved holding postponed municipal elections in February, also pending parliamentary approval.

"We usually do not hold elections in wartime but these elections have been determined in advance," a statement from the prime minister's office said. "They have already been postponed once."

Skip next section US Navy choppers repel Houthi attack, sink ships
December 31, 2023

US Navy choppers repel Houthi attack, sink ships

US Navy helicopters have sunk three of four small boats that Iranian-backed Houthi militants were using to attack a merchant vessel in the southern Red Sea.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and USS Gravely had responded to distress calls from the Maersk Hangzhou.

CENTCOM said they had returned fire on the Houthi boats in self-defense and sank three of the vessels with no survivors. The fourth boat escaped the scene.

Maersk said on Sunday that it would pause all sailing through the Red Sea for 48 hours.

Skip next section IDF says it stormed Hamas HQ in southern Gaza
December 31, 2023

IDF says it stormed Hamas HQ in southern Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it stormed the Hamas headquarters in Khan Younis, the main city of the southern Gaza Strip.

"During the ground operation in Khan Younis, IDF forces today raided the Hamas headquarters in the heart of the city, including the organization's intelligence command center," IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said. It was not possible to independently verify the statement. 

Israeli officials believe Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar is currently hiding in tunnels beneath the city. 

Meanwhile, the IDF said its troops were in the process of taking control of the northern Gaza Strip, where its ground offensive began.

Hagari said Israeli forces were focusing on the area of Darj Tufah, the last significant stronghold of Hamas in the northern part of the territory.

Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization in several countries.

Skip next section Netanyahu says war will last 'months,' seeks control of Rafah border
December 31, 2023

Netanyahu says war will last 'months,' seeks control of Rafah border

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the war against Hamas will continue for "months."

"The war is at its height," Netanyahu told reporters. He said Israel's offensive in the territory will last "for many more months."

Netanyahu said Israeli forces had "eliminated over 8,000 terrorists" in the war.

"We are continuing to fight until the goals of the war have been achieved, especially the elimination of Hamas and release of all our hostages," the Israeli leader said.

"We will ensure that Gaza no longer constitutes a threat to Israel," he added.

Israel's military forges on with Gaza offensive

Netanyahu said Israel seeks to control the Philadelphi Corridor buffer zone along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt.

"It must be shut," Netanyahu said. "It is clear that any other arrangement would not ensure the demilitarization that we seek."

The war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7, when the militant-Islamist group attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 and taking 240 people hostage, according to Israeli authorities.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, Germany, and other countries.

Israel responded with widespread airstrikes and a ground offensive in the Palestinian territory.

According to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, 21,672 have been killed in the Israeli offensive. The ministry's figures are seen as broadly reliable by the UN and other international organizations, although they do not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

Crowds of Palestinians wait on the streets of Rafah

Skip next section Risk of disease increases in 'deadliest year' for Gaza — UN
December 31, 2023

Risk of disease increases in 'deadliest year' for Gaza — UN

Displacement in the Gaza Strip has increased the risk of disease, according to the UN's humanitarian agency (OCHA).

The agency also said that "2023 is the deadliest year since our records began in 2005." The Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory has reported a death toll of 21,672 from Israeli strikes and fighting. The Hamas-led ministry does not distinguish between civilian and militant deaths, but its casualty counts have been seen as reliable by the UN and NGOs working in the region.

"The spread of diseases in Gaza has reportedly intensified, particularly due to the recent mass displacements across the south of Gaza," the agency said, adding that "some families have been forced to move multiple times."

OCHA said around 180,000 people were suffering from upper respiratory infections in the territory, and there were 136,400 cases of diarrhea. It also noted cases of lice, scabies, chickenpox, skin rash, acute jaundice system and meningitis.

According to OCHA, the UN children's fund (UNICEF) delivered 600,000 doses of vaccines to the Gaza Strip on Friday.

Skip next section Red Sea: US downs two missiles launched from Houthi-controlled area of Yemen
December 31, 2023

Red Sea: US downs two missiles launched from Houthi-controlled area of Yemen

The United States says it has shot down two missiles launched from areas of Yemen controlled by Houthi rebels.

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the projectiles were headed toward a container ship in the southern Red Sea.

A Singapore-flagged, Denmark-owned ship reported that it was struck by a missile, after which two US warships responded. One of the two US Navy vessels then shot down two anti-ship ballistic missiles, according to CENTCOM.

CENTCOM said there were no reported injuries and the vessel remained seaworthy.

The Iran-backed Houthis have launched attacks on ships passing through the crucial Bab al-Mandeb strait in response to Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip.

CENTCOM said that Saturday's missile launch made up the 23rd Houthi attack on international shipping since November 19.

sdi/lo (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)