Netanyahu affirms Israel's right to fight its enemies with provocative speech

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected international pressure to curb his military campaign in Gaza and, speaking at a Holocaust memorial, asserted Israel's right to fight its “genocidal enemies.”

Nearly seven months into the war, Netanyahu remains steadfast in his goal of destroying Hamas. That, and Netanyahu's insistence on sending troops to Rafah, the Gaza Strip's southernmost city, have complicated efforts to end the fighting and raised concerns about the future of hostages held by Hamas.

But Netanyahu remained defiant.

On Sunday, he spoke at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, to mark National Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Hamas attack on October 7, she said, was not a “Holocaust” – not because Hamas did not intend to destroy Israel but because of its failure to do so. About 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 taken hostage that day, Israeli authorities say. Hamas' intentions, Netanyahu said, were the same as the Nazis'.

In his speech, which lasted about 15 minutes and was largely in Hebrew, Netanyahu rejected accusations that Israel was committing genocide in the Gaza Strip. Since the war began, Gaza authorities say Israeli troops have killed more than 34,000 people, many of them women and children, although the statistics do not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Netanyahu said the Israeli military does everything it can to avoid harming civilians and that it allowed aid to reach Gaza to avoid a humanitarian crisis. A United Nations official recently said that parts of Gaza are experiencing a “full-blown famine.”

Mr. Netanyahu wanted to say a few words in English addressed to the international community. He invoked the Holocaust to assert Israel's right to defend itself, with or without international support.

“If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone,” he said. “But we know we are not alone because countless respectable people around the world support our just cause. And I tell you: we will defeat our genocidal enemies. Never again is now!”

After his speech on Monday morning, the Israeli army gave its strongest signal yet that it intended to invade Rafah, calling on tens of thousands of Gazans to evacuate the city.

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