Following the IDF's advancing ground offensive in the Gaza Strip and discussions between Israel and the United States about the Strip’s future following Hamas’ removal from the area, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the possibility of the reestablishment of Jewish settlement in Gaza on Saturday, clarifying that "it's not a realistic goal."
According to him, "Gaza will be demilitarized, and there won't be any military threat threatening Israel from the Strip. For this to happen, control of the area is required."
National Unity party head Benny Gantz also commented on the issue in a joint statement with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, adding: "Our entire perspective on anything related to an Israeli hold on the Strip and its surroundings must be based solely on security considerations, and that’s what we’re doing right now."
The discussion regarding Jewish settlement in Gaza also reached security officials, particularly in light of images of IDF soldiers waving flags with the names of communities from the Gush Katif bloc during ground operations in the Strip.
"Political discourse stays out of the operation; it's not part of the mission, neither during peacetime nor in war. The IDF is a national military; hence, these images aren’t fit to be taken in wartime," IDF spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari emphasized.
According to him, "the matter has also been clarified to commanders and soldiers on the ground. We need to ensure the security of our forces and adhere to our regulations, that's our mission."
It seems that one of the soldiers photographed in the Gaza Strip alongside a sign reading "Neve Dekalim," which was one of the settlements in the Gush Katif bloc before it was evacuated in 2005, was also documented last week planting a tree in the Strip and dedicating the act "for the sake of Israel and the release of all prisoners of Zion," including Jewish settlers who have committed violent acts against Palestinians.
"We haven't forgotten you," the soldier said. "You are a part of this struggle. We won't leave anyone behind. Everyone will reach the end. Am Yisrael Chai." The military condemned soldier's statements, saying they were "not in line with the IDF’s values."
The Gush Katif bloc comprised 16 Jewish settlements established near the coastline in the southernmost edge of the Gaza Strip, close to the Egyptian border. It was surrounded by the Palestinian cities of Rafah, Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah.
The Gush Katif area is far from Israeli communities near the Gaza border Hamas attacked on October 7, and also distant from the area where the IDF is currently conducting ground operations in the northern part of the Strip.
Only three Jewish settlements were established in northern Gaza, along with Netzarim in the center of the Strip – south of Gaza City – and a southern village located close to Deir al-Balah.
Eight days following Hamas’ massacre, Education Minister Yoav Kisch said those responsible for the decision leading to Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of the Gush Katif bloc in 2005 also bear responsibility for the deadly attack on southern communities and music festival near Kibbutz Re'im.
"Our responsibility as a government is clear, no one is trying to avoid it. The responsibility also lies with the military, with those who decided on the disengagement from Gaza," he said.