Israel-Hamas War: Israel Needs To Decide Who Will Run Gaza Strip Once War Is Over, Says US Secretary Of State Antony Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said that Israel has no intention to occupy and govern Gaza Strip once the ongoing war with Hamas is over.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that Israel needs to address the question of Gaza Strip's governance after Hamas is driven out of there and the ongoing Israel-Hamas War is over. 

Blinken also said that there cannot be a return of the status quo after the war and Hamas cannot be allowed to rule Gaza again, which is one of the regions that make up the envisioned Palestinian state, with the other being the West Bank.

The State of Israel and Hamas, a designated terrorist group, have been at war since October 7 when Hamas mounted an all-out offensive on Israel and killed 1,400, injured over 5,400, and took over 220 hostages. In response to the worst attack ever on its soil, Israel responded with airstrikes that have continued since then, with a ground offensive also understood to be on the cards. The Israeli leadership has vowed to defeat Hamas.

In an interview with NBC News, Blinken said it is now clear that no country will be able to accept Hamas going back to ruling Gaza after the war is over. 

Blinken told NBC, "I think we know two things. We cannot go back to the status quo —they cannot go back to the status quo— with Hamas being in a position in terms of its governance of Gaza and repeat what it did. At the same time, what I have heard from the Israelis is absolutely no intent, no desire to be running Gaza themselves. They moved out of Gaza unilaterally, unconditionally a couple of decades ago. They cannot be in a position where they are constantly under the threat of the most terrific terrorist attacks coming from Gaza. So, something needs to be found that ensures Hamas cannot do it again, but it also does not revert to Israeli governance of Gaza, which they also do not want."

While the singular focus of the Israeli government at the moment has been on taking down Hamas, with more than 200 hostages taking primacy, Blinken said that the post-Hamas governance framework of Gaza needs to be worked out too. 

Blinken told NBC, "There are different ideas out there about what could follow, but all of that, I think needs, to be worked and it’s something that needs to be worked even as Israel is dealing with the current threat."

Israel was in control of Gaza from 1967-2005. Following the unilateral withdrawal of Israel from Gaza, elections followed, and Hamas won the polls. Fighting between Hamas and the rival Palestinian political faction Fatah followed and Hamas won. Hamas drove Fatah out of Gaza and has governed the territory since 2007 under a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade because of its terrorist designation. While Gaza is part of the State of Palestine, it is not controlled by the recognised Palestinian Authority (PA) which is held as the ruler of the Palestinian territories. 

The Israeli government has also echoed Blinken's words and has clarified it has no intention to occupy and run Gaza. Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday told an Israeli parliamentary committee that there is no plan to take control of Gaza once the ongoing war with Hamas ends. He said that Israel would end its "responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip" once the war is over and has no plan to take control of the region, according to BBC News. 

US President Joe Biden has also said that Israeli occupation of Gaza would be a "big mistake". 

In the interview, Blinken also addressed the humanitarian crises in Gaza and said while Israel has opened water supply to southern Gaza, the Biden administration would want pipelines elsewhere to open too. 

Following the October 7 attack, Israel implemented a "complete siege" of Gaza and stopped the supply of electricity, water, and fuel to Gaza. The region depends on Israel for around a third of its water supply. In the fighting since then, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been displaced and there is a severe shortage of medicines, food, water, and fuel in the region. The United States has worked to make Israel open water supply to southern Gaza and it also helped reach an international agreement for the delivery of aid to Gaza.

Blinken told NBC, "First, there are multiple pipelines.  Israel turned back on one of the pipelines about six or seven days ago, so that was an important step.  There are a couple of other pipelines that we’d like to see restored.  In addition, water is coming in.  We – as you mentioned, we had the first 20 trucks of assistance come in...At the same time, there are other things that need to happen.  There are desalination plants that need to be powered in order to make sure that the water people are drinking is clean.  We do have concerns about the spread of disease as a result of people drinking dirty water."

Blinken also said that it's "vitally important" that every measure to safeguard civilians is taken in the ongoing fighting. 

The ongoing fighting has taken a very heavy toll on the Palestinians in Gaza. Widespread civilian casualties have taken place in the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza meant to take down the Hamas facilities and leaders, which have long been accused of settling close to civilian settlements and using them as human shields. Latest figures show that at least 4,650 have been killed and over 14,200 have been injured in Israeli strikes, several hundreds of them women and children.