Oct 9, 2023 - World

Scoop: Netanyahu tells Biden "we have to go" into Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Biden on Sunday that Israel does not have any choice but to unleash a ground operation in Gaza. "We have to go in," the Israeli leader said, according to three Israeli and U.S. sources briefed on the call.

Why it matters: Netanyahu's message signals what his country's response to Hamas' attack will look like in the days and weeks ahead in what the Israeli prime minister has said will be a "long and difficult war."

Driving the news: The Israeli military announced on Monday it has mobilized 300,000 reserve soldiers — the largest number of reservists called to duty in decades — as part of preparations for a possible ground offensive in Gaza.

Behind the scenes: During his call with Netanyahu, Biden raised the issue of Israeli hostages in Gaza, according to the three sources.

  • "We have to go in. We can't negotiate now," Netanyahu said.
  • The White House and the Israeli Prime Minister's Office declined to comment.
  • Netanyahu told Biden that Israel had no other choice but to respond with force because a country can't show weakness in the Middle East.
  • "We need to restore deterrence," Netanyahu told Biden, according to the three sources.
  • Biden did not try to press Netanyahu or convince him not to go through with a ground operation.

Between the lines: According to a U.S. source, Biden is expected to handle the current Gaza war in a similar way to how he handled the 2021 Gaza war. The U.S. gave Israel public backing and held frequent and low-profile diplomatic engagement with Netanyahu and other leaders in the region.

The big picture: Biden asked Netanyahu about a scenario in which a second front is opened along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

  • The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fired three rockets toward an Israeli military outpost on the northern border on Sunday.
  • On Monday, the IDF shot and killed several gunmen who tried to infiltrate Israel through the border with Lebanon. Hezbollah said it was not involved in that incident. The IDF attacked several Hezbollah outposts near the border on Monday.
  • Netanyahu told Biden a front on the Lebanese border is a concern and Israel is preparing for this scenario, but stressed Israel doesn't have any other choice but to respond with great force in Gaza, the sources said.

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