Israel's military spokesman says Hamas 'cannot be eliminated'

Jerusalem, Jun 20 (IANS): Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Daniel Hagari has said that Hamas "cannot be eliminated" and suggested that only a swap deal could secure the release of all hostages still held in Gaza.

The remarks, made during an interview with Israeli Channel 13 TV news, mark the first time an Israeli official has said on Wednesday that the Palestinian group cannot be eliminated.

The statement diverges from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's set goals for the war: "eliminating" Hamas and releasing hostages held in Gaza, Xinhua news agency reported.

"Hamas is an idea, Hamas is a party. It is rooted in the hearts of the people -- whoever thinks we can eliminate Hamas is wrong," said the IDF officer.

Hagari said that the way to weaken Hamas is to establish a new government in the Gaza Strip that would replace it and take care of food distribution and public services, adding that the only way to secure the release of all Israeli hostages is by reaching a swap deal.

In response, Netanyahu's office released a statement saying that the security cabinet "has defined as one of the war goals the destruction of Hamas's military and governance capabilities," indicating a slight shift from the previously stated objective of eliminating Hamas.

Israeli forces have been fighting in Gaza for more than eight months, causing a humanitarian crisis and mass destruction and killing more than 37,300 people, mainly civilians.

According to the Israeli army, much of Hamas' militant infrastructure has been dismantled.

Israel launched the war to retaliate for a surprise Hamas attack on southern Israeli communities, killing about 1,200 people.



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Title: Israel's military spokesman says Hamas 'cannot be eliminated'

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