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Israel's Netanyahu appears at odds with White House and Israel's military over war with Hamas in Gaza

Netanyahu increasingly at odds with U.S., IDF
Netanyahu increasingly at odds with own military and U.S. 07:42

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears increasingly at odds with both the U.S. government and his own military over his handling of the war in Gaza, and the divisions come amid mounting concern that another front in the war, with serious implications for U.S. forces in the region, could open up.

A fracture appeared in public view this week between Netanyahu and Israel's military as the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip approaches the 10-month mark.

The Ministry of Health in the Hamas-run territory says more than 37,400 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. The crisis was sparked by Hamas' Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, which saw the militants kill about 1,200 people and kidnap more than 200 others — about half of whom remain captive in Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces says 664 of its troops have been killed during the operations against Hamas, and with Netanyahu vowing to continue the war until his key objectives are met, senior Israeli military figures have voiced frustration — echoing remarks from the White House — that there appears to be no plan for what comes after the fighting.

In the days right after the war started, Netanyahu was unequivocal about his aims, vowing in televised remarks to destroy Hamas and warning that every member of the group "is a dead man."

More recently, his government has spoken specifically about destroying the group's military and governing capacities, but a U.S. official told CBS News on Thursday that after nine months of bloodshed, Israel's forces "haven't come close to achieving their objective of destroying Hamas."

The official told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin that hundreds of Hamas fighters are still operating in Gaza, taking advantage of miles of still-intact tunnels under the Palestinian territory. Hamas' top leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, also remains at large. The official added that, as Israel has no "day after" plan for Gaza, the current strategy appears to be "a recipe for continuous war."

U.S., Israel at odds over meeting schedules 04:45

This week, the same concerns from Netanyahu's own military were thrust into the public domain.

"Whoever thinks we can eliminate Hamas is wrong," IDF chief spokesman Daniel Hagari said Thursday on Israeli TV, adding what appeared to be a pointed jab at Netanyahu, saying that leading Israelis to believe that was an achievable mission, was "simply throwing sand in the eyes of the public."

He warned of consequences if a plan isn't crafted to administer the densely packed Palestinian territory in the wake of Hamas, which has ruled over the enclave for almost 20 years.

"If we don't bring something else to Gaza," Hagari said, "we will get Hamas."

Netanyahu's war cabinet, a coalition of rival politicians formed almost immediately by the prime minister after the Oct. 7 attack to show a unified response, recently fell apart over the same issue.

CBS News asked political analyst Tal Schneider, a veteran reporter for the Times of Israel, what would happen if Hamas is defeated militarily, but there's nothing there to fill the power vacuum in Gaza.

"Hamas stays in power," she replied. "As long as you don't have civilian, other civilian infrastructure, this is just Hamas…. Even if they don't carry guns."

She said Hamas already appeared to be making the transition, as its last few combat battalions fight IDF forces in and around the group's last bastion, the southern city of Rafah.

"Once they knew the military is going to go into Rafah, they dropped the guns and ran away with their, just clothes," she said, adding that laying down their arms for now, "doesn't mean that they are, you know, stopped being Hamas people."

Protesters hold a sign depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with words reading, "Impeachment now," as they gather near his official residence for an anti-government rally calling for early elections, in Jerusalem, June 20, 2024. MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty

Under increasing pressure from his own military, and with regular protests being staged against his policies in Israel, Netanyahu publicly lashed out this week at his biggest international benefactor, the United States. In a video statement posted online, the Israeli leader called it "inconceivable that, in the past few months, the [Biden] administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel."

While the U.S. has paused one shipment of a specific type of bomb, over concern that the American weapons could be used in Rafah, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre replied bluntly on Tuesday to Netanyahu's remarks, saying: "We genuinely do not know what he's talking about. We just don't."

"There was one particular shipment of munitions that was paused, and you've heard us talk about that many times. We continue to have constructive conversations with the Israelis for the release of that particular shipment and don't have any updates on that," she said. "There are no other pauses or holds in place."

White House disputes Netanyahu's claim that the U.S. is withholding weapons from Israel 03:43

Netanyahu delivered his video message just as clashes intensify along another high-stakes front line: Israel's northern border with Lebanon, where it has exchanged fire for months with Hamas' ally Hezbollah. Those missile and rocket attacks have intensified in recent weeks, along with threats, from both sides.

The leader of Hezbollah, a powerful group that, like Hamas, is backed by Iran and has long been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel, warned this week that it was ready to defend itself in a war with Israel.

Israel's leaders have delivered a consistent counter message. The Foreign Ministry issued a new warning in a social media post Friday, saying Hezbollah had fired "thousands of rockets, missiles, and explosive drones" at the Jewish state since Oct. 7, and adding: "Make no mistake: We will not allow Hezbollah to terrorize the people of Israel."

The White House has voiced concern over the prospect of Israel launching a full-scale military operation to go after Hezbollah in Lebanon. President Biden sent an envoy to Israel this week, partly to stress those concerns.

Hezbollah and affiliated Iran-backed groups across the region have significantly more firepower than Hamas, and some of them have already lethally targeted U.S. troops based in the Middle East with rockets and drones since the war in Gaza broke out. 

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