Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly trying to quell an uprising from far-right members of his government over his concession to send about two trucks of fuel per day into Gaza before securing the release of hundreds of hostages still held by Hamas.
Nentanyhu, facing mounting pressure from President Biden and the West, reportedly agreed on Friday to send 60,000 liters of fuel, or about two trucks per day, into Gaza in order to prevent the sewer system from collapsing and deter further humanitarian crises, according to Politico. That represents just about 3.5% of the amount of fuel allowed into Gaza before the war.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a right-wing leader, has deemed allowing fuel into Gaza ‘a grave mistake.’ He argued Netanyahu’s war cabinet, which consists of three people, including the prime minister himself, should be expanded so that all seven parties in the coalition government have a seat.
Without daily fuel deliveries, some argue the sewer system in Gaza would break down and risk the spread of infectious disease, endangering both civilians and Israeli troops. ‘If plague were to break out, we’d have to stop the war,’ National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi told reporters Friday.
But Itamar Ben Gvir, the minister overseeing Israel’s police, contended that ‘so long as our hostages don’t even get a visit from the Red Cross, there’s no sense in giving the enemy humanitarian gifts,’ according to Politico. Allowing fuel, Gvir said, ‘broadcasts weakness, gives oxygen to the enemy and allows [Hamas Gaza leader Yahya] Sinwar to sit comfortably in his air-conditioned bunker, watch the news and continue to manipulate Israeli society and the families of the abductees.’
At the onset of the conflict, Israel stopped deliveries of oil into Gaza amid fears it could power generators used to pump oxygen into Hamas’s network of underground tunnels.
Meanwhile, thousands of family members and supporters of some 240 hostages held in Gaza streamed into Jerusalem on Saturday, castigating Netanyahu’s government over his management of the war with Hamas and pleading with the government to do whatever it takes to bring their loved ones home.
As public pressure mounted, Netanyahu said Saturday that Israel’s war cabinet would meet with representatives of the families this week.
‘I am marching with you. The Israeli people are marching with you,’ he said. ‘I promise, when we have something to say, we will inform you.’
The march capped a five-day trek from Tel Aviv and represented the largest protest on behalf of the hostages since they were dragged into Gaza by Hamas on Oct. 7 as part of the deadly terrorist attacks in southern Israel. About 1,200 people were killed in Israel on the day of the surprise Hamas assault.
Israel declared war in response, and Hamas has reported that more than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed in the past six weeks, as the Israeli military conducts a punishing air and ground offensive in Gaza, where Hamas has ruled for the past 16 years.
Last week, the White House said Israel agreed to begin implementing ‘4-hour pauses’ of military operations in areas of northern Gaza each day.
The march came as Israeli media reported that the war cabinet was considering a Qatari-brokered deal to win the release of the women and children among the hostages. In exchange, Israel would agree to a cease-fire of several days and release several dozen of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners it is holding. Netanyahu denied Saturday that a deal had been struck.
‘On the issue of hostages, there are a lot of unsubstantiated rumors, a lot of incorrect reports. I want to clarify, until this moment, there has not been a deal,’ he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.