Netanyahu seeks open-ended control over security, civilian affairs in Gaza in new postwar plan

Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to hospital.
Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on Thursday.
(Adel Hana / Associated Press)

A long-awaited postwar plan by Israel’s prime minister shows that his government seeks open-ended control over security and civilian affairs in the Gaza Strip. That was swiftly rejected Friday by Palestinian leaders and runs counter to Washington’s vision for the war-ravaged enclave.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented the two-page document to his security Cabinet late Thursday for approval.

Deep disagreements over Gaza’s future have led to increasingly public friction between Israel and the United States, its closest ally. The Biden administration seeks eventual Palestinian governance in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank as a precursor to Palestinian statehood, an outcome vehemently opposed by Netanyahu and his right-wing government. Netanyahu’s plan envisions handpicked Palestinians administering Gaza.


Separately, cease-fire efforts appeared to gain traction, with mediators to present a new proposal at an expected high-level meeting this weekend in Paris. The U.S., Egypt and Qatar have been struggling for weeks to find a formula that could halt Israel’s devastating offensive in Gaza, but now face an unofficial deadline as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaches.

Gazans crammed into Rafah along the Egyptian border have no place to escape as Israeli attacks hit ever closer in a final bid to rescue remaining hostages.

Feb. 13, 2024

In Gaza, Israeli airstrikes in the center and south of the territory killed at least 92 Palestinians, including children and women, overnight and into Friday, Gazan health officials and an Associated Press journalist said. An additional 24 bodies remained trapped under the rubble.

After a strike leveled his apartment building in the central town of Deir al Balah, online video showed Mahmoud Zuaiter — a comedian well known in Gaza for his appearances in TV commercials — rushing into the hospital holding his young sister, who was screaming and covered in blood. At least 25 people were killed in the strike, 16 of them women and children, officials said.

Throughout the war, Zuaiter has been posting upbeat and cheerful videos on social media, joking with people about ways they endure bombardment and displacement, praising Palestinian culture and assuring those around him that one day things will be better.

Another video at the hospital showed him cradling his wounded sister in his lap. “I always say, ‘God, may they not force us out of Gaza,’ that’s how much I love it and its people,” he says, crying. “But it looks like they want us to leave Gaza.” Earlier at the hospital, relatives wept over bodies laid out in burial shrouds in the courtyard, and a man cradled a dead infant.

The overall Palestinian death toll since the start of the war rose to more than 29,500, with nearly 70,000 people wounded, Gaza health officials said. The death toll amounts to close to 1.3% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million.


Netanyahu’s plan, while lacking specifics, marks the first time he has presented a formal postwar vision. It reiterates that Israel is determined to crush Hamas, the militant group that took power in Gaza in 2007.

Polls have indicated that a majority of Palestinians don’t support Hamas, but the group has deep roots in Palestinian society. Critics, including some in Israel, say the goal of eliminating Hamas is unattainable.

While Gazans hold Israel principally responsible for their suffering, many also blame Hamas for not foreseeing the consequences of its Oct. 7 attack.

Jan. 31, 2024

Netanyahu’s plan calls for freedom of action for Israel’s military across a demilitarized Gaza after the war to thwart any security threat. It says Israel would establish a buffer zone inside Gaza, which is likely to provoke U.S. objections.

The plan also envisions Gaza being governed by local officials who Israel says would “not be identified with countries or entities that support terrorism and will not receive payment from them.”

It’s not clear whether any Palestinians would agree to such a role. Over the decades, Israel has repeatedly tried and failed to set up handpicked local Palestinian governing bodies.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers pockets of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Friday denounced Netanyahu’s plan as “colonialist and racist,” saying it would amount to Israeli reoccupation of Gaza. Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintained control of access to the territory.


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Nov. 5, 2023

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said he had not seen details of the plan. But he said any plan should be consistent with basic principles the U.S. has set out for Gaza’s future, “including that it cannot be a platform for terrorism, there should be no Israeli reoccupation of Gaza, [and] the size of Gaza’s territory should not be reduced.”

The Biden administration wants to see a reformed Palestinian Authority govern the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank as a step toward Palestinian statehood. It has sought to chip away at Netanyahu’s resistance by holding out the prospect of the normalization of ties between Israel and Arab powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which demands a Palestinian state as a precondition.

Civilian deaths in Gaza have fueled global outrage. But many Israelis, still raw from Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, have scant interest in the war’s toll on Palestinians.

Jan. 24, 2024

U.S., Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials are expected to meet in Paris this weekend to discuss cease-fire efforts. A senior Egyptian official said Egypt and Qatar would outline an understanding reached with Hamas leaders that calls for a six-week cease-fire and the release of elderly and sick hostages in return for Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the news media. During the cease-fire, details would be worked out on a further stage.

Hamas has demanded a complete halt to Israel’s offensive and a withdrawal of its troops from Gaza in return for releasing all its remaining hostages. It also demands that Palestinians held by Israel, including top militants, be freed. Netanyahu has rejected those demands.

Israel declared war on Hamas on Oct. 7, after members of the militant group stormed into southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 250 hostages. More than 100 hostages were freed in a weeklong cease-fire in late November.

Since the start of the war, Israel’s attacks have killed 29,514 Palestinians and wounded close to 70,000, the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Friday. Two-thirds of those killed have been women and children, said the ministry, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count.


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Jan. 23, 2024

Israel says it has killed at least 10,000 Hamas fighters, without providing evidence for its count. It holds Hamas responsible for civilian casualties because the group operates and fights from within civilian areas.

The Israeli offensive has inflicted immense suffering in Gaza. About 80% of the population have been displaced, infectious diseases run rampant, and hundreds of thousands of people are facing hunger.

In the West Bank, two Palestinians killed in an Israeli drone strike on their car were buried Friday in the Jenin refugee camp. The two bodies were wrapped in flags of the militant group Islamic Jihad and carried on stretchers during the funeral procession.

More than three months into the Israel-Hamas war, the families of hostages held in Gaza have grown disillusioned with Israel’s military operations.

Jan. 25, 2024

Israel says one of those killed was previously involved in shooting attacks on Israeli settlements and army posts and was about to carry out another attack when he was killed in the drone strike late Thursday.

Shurafa reported from Deir al Balah and Mroue from Beirut.