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Israeli army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated

JERUSALEM — Israel’s top army spokesman said Wednesday that Hamas cannot be eliminated, prompting a knee-jerk reaction from the government which quickly reiterated it remains committed to the Palestinian group’s destruction.

More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented Oct 7 attack on Israel, have failed to oust the Islamist fighters from Gaza but have brought widespread devastation.

“To say that we are going to make Hamas disappear is to throw sand in people’s eyes. If we don’t provide an alternative, in the end, we will have Hamas,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told Israel’s Channel 13 broadcaster.

“Hamas is an ideology, we cannot eliminate an ideology.”

His comments were quickly rebuffed by the office of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose cabinet has stated its Gaza offensive will not end until Hamas is defeated.

“The political and security cabinet headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu defined as one of the goals of the war the destruction of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities,” his office said in a statement.

“The IDF is of course committed to this.”

In a separate statement on its Telegram channel, the military clarified that Hagari had addressed Hamas “as an ideology… and his statements were clear and explicit”.

“Any other claim is taking the statement out of context.”

The Oct 7 attack that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The fighters also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas has killed at least 37,396 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry. — AFP