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Netanyahu accused by cabinet member of not telling the truth over Hamas defeat

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been accused of not telling the truth about the key military aim of defeating Hamas by a member of the country’s war cabinet.

Former army chief Gadi Eisenkot, whose son was killed fighting in Gaza, also cast doubt over the strategy for releasing hostages and said there was “no trust” in the current leadership, stressing the need for fresh elections.

His outspoken remarks in a TV interview expose deepening splits within the government over the handling of the Israel-Hamas war, which is now in its fourth month.

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The conflict was triggered by the surprise attack by Hamas militants on 7 October, which killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw about 250 others taken hostage.

The massacre led to a deadly Israeli offensive which has devastated the besieged territory and killed nearly 25,000 people, according to Hamas-run health authorities.

Mr Netanyahu has said the military campaign would continue until it achieved “complete victory” over Hamas.

But Mr Eisenkot, speaking to the Israeli broadcaster Channel 12 News, said: “Those who say that there was a major blow and demolition of the capabilities in the north of the strip are telling the truth.

“Those who talk about an absolute defeat and lack of will and ability do not tell the truth. This is why there is no need to tell tall tales.”

He also rejected concerns over holding elections while the country was at war.

He said: “Lack of trust among the public in its government is no less severe than lack of unity during a war.

“We need to go to the polls and have an election in the next few months, in order to renew the trust as currently there is no trust.

“The state of Israel is a democracy and needs to ask itself, after such a serious event, how do we go forward with a leadership that is responsible for such an absolute failure?”

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In addition, Mr Eisenkot argued the remaining captives held by Hamas “will only return alive if there is a deal, linked to a significant pause in fighting”.

Claiming they could be freed by means “is to spread illusions”, he said.

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The cabinet rift comes amid tensions with the US, Israel’s closest ally.

While Washington has provided strong military and political support for the campaign it has been increasingly calling on Israel to scale back its assault and take steps toward establishing a Palestinian state after the war – a suggestion Mr Netanyahu has strongly rejected.

The Israeli leader reiterated his longstanding opposition to a two-state solution, arguing that a Palestinian state would become a launchpad for attacks on Israel.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken has said it is the best way to protect Israel, unify moderate Arab countries and isolate Israel’s arch-enemy, Iran.

He said without a path to a Palestinian state, Israel will not “get genuine security”.

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Meanwhile, commentators have begun to question whether Mr Netanyahu’s objectives are realistic, given the slow pace of the offensive and growing international criticism, including genocide accusations at the United Nations world court, which Israel vehemently denies.

Polls also show the popularity of Mr Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, has plummeted during the war.

The war has threatened to escalate into a wider conflict across the Middle East, with fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen continuing to target international shipping despite US-led airstrikes.

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