(JTA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that if Israel were faced with a “second Holocaust,” he could understand why it would remove Palestinian civilians from the Gaza Strip.
The statement came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel has no intention of doing so.
DeSantis’ remarks at a Republican presidential debate on Wednesday came on the eve of opening arguments at The Hague, where Israel faces charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice. The debate was the final one ahead of the Iowa Republican caucuses on Monday — the first contest in the Republican presidential primary.
Jake Tapper, the CNN moderator, asked DeSantis if he supports Israeli cabinet ministers who are “pushing for the mass removal of Palestinians from Gaza,” noting that his rival on the debate stage at Drake University in DesMoines, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, does not support mass removal.
“As President I am not going to tell them to do that, I think there’s a lot of issues with that,” DeSantis said. “But if they make the calculation that to avert a second Holocaust, they need to do that — I think some of these Palestinian Arabs, Saudi Arabia should take some, Egypt should take some.”
Just hours earlier, Netanyahu in a short video posted on social media in English said Israel had no plans to remove Palestinians or to permanently reoccupy the Gaza Strip.
“I want to make a few points absolutely clear: Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population,” Netanyahu said. “Israel is fighting Hamas terrorists, not the Palestinian population, and we are doing so in full compliance with international law.”
Netanyahu’s remarks came after weeks of pressure from the Biden administration to explicitly contradict the statements of ministers, who have called for the removal of Palestinians in the wake of the war launched with Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel.
Haley and DeSantis are vying for the second place spot behind former President Donald Trump, who still maintains substantial lead just days ahead of the Iowa caucuses. Trump snubbed the debate, a way to broadcast his consistent lead in the polling.
Republican Jewish donors who oppose Trump have lined up behind Haley as her polling has improved, and as DeSantis’s polling numbers have cratered.
Haley touted her record as Trump’s envoy to the United Nations in defending Israel, and took DeSantis to task for making Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie a lead campaign surrogate; Massie is the only Republican who consistently votes against pro-Israel resolutions in Congress.
“We need to understand: the reason we need to support Israel is Israel is a bright spot in a tough neighborhood,” she said. “They are the tip of the spear when it comes to defeating terrorism. It has never been that Israel needs America. It has always been that America needs Israel. When I was at the United Nations, I fought every day for Israel.”
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Washington Says It Will Not Back Expanded IDF Operations in Rafah
i24 News – Medics reported that Israeli airstrikes overnight in Gaza’s Rafah claimed the lives of 17 individuals on Saturday.
The attacks come as tensions escalate, with over a million Palestinians densely packed into the border city, awaiting a potential full-scale offensive amid widespread destruction across the enclave and limited avenues of escape.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced plans for military action, aiming to evacuate Rafah’s population and dismantle four Hamas battalions allegedly stationed in the area.
As IDF prepares for an intense ground operation in Rafah, its efforts to create safe corridors for Palestinian civilians are made more difficult by the fighting ongoing throughout Gaza. @mcauliffe_marym joins @Nicole_Zedek with the latest updates: pic.twitter.com/83PJfNMEdd
— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 10, 2024
Unlike previous conflicts where civilians were urged to seek refuge in southern Gaza, the current situation presents a dilemma as there are no relatively unscathed areas left, leaving residents with nowhere to flee. Aid agencies have warned of the potential for a significant loss of civilian lives should an assault on Rafah occur.
Reports from Gaza City indicate intensified fighting on Saturday, with residents reporting clashes amid the ongoing hostilities.
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters, disclosed plans to coordinate the relocation of Rafah residents northward in anticipation of potential military action. However, Egypt has stated its refusal to permit mass displacement of Palestinians into its territory,.
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Numerous Weapons Discovered in UNRWA Premises in Gaza
i24 News – The IDF revealed that it had discovered, in the areas of Shati and Tel al-Hawa in northern Gaza, twenty terrorist infrastructure sites including a tunnel entrance near an UNRWA school. The tunnel, an “important part of Hamas’ military intelligence services,” passed under the building which serves as the main headquarters of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip.
Large quantities of weapons were found in rooms of the building, including rifles, ammunition, grenades and explosives. Intelligence and documents discovered in the offices of UNRWA officials confirmed that these offices had also been used by Hamas terrorists, the military claims.
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Qatar Says Hamas ‘Promises’ Hostages Received Medicines, But Offers no proof
i24 News – In a recent development, Qatar has informed both Israel and France that Hamas has purportedly agreed to ensure that hostages receive the essential medicines delivered to them in the Gaza Strip.
Last month, Qatar facilitated the transfer of these crucial drugs to Gaza following a comprehensive list compiled with input from the hostages’ respective doctors. The medications in question are deemed “vital,” primarily aimed at addressing chronic illnesses among the hostages.
This development comes amidst ongoing efforts to address the welfare and medical needs of the hostages held in Gaza, with international stakeholders closely monitoring the situation for further updates.
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