The general responsible for Israel's border with the Gaza Strip says that continued rule by the territory's Islamist militant group Hamas is necessary for its stability, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
"There is no substitute for Hamas as ruler in the strip. The alternative would be the Israeli military and chaos in governance," top-selling Yediot Aharonot quoted Major General Sami Turgeman as telling heads of southern Israel local authorities in the Gaza border area on Monday.
The military spokesman's office told AFP that it had no transcript of Turgeman's remarks and therefore could not verify them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described Hamas, along with the Islamic State jihadist group, as "branches of the same poisonous tree".
Israel fought a bitter 50-day war with Hamas in Gaza last year, in which about 2,200 Palestinians were killed and 73 died on the Israeli side.
Rightwing politicians, including members of Netanyahu's cabinet, criticised an August 26 truce, saying that the military should have kept up its offensive until Hamas was removed from power.
Netanyahu is in the process of trying to get a centre-right government confirmed by a restive parliament, and is hoping to entice hardline former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman to reverse his decision to take his Yisrael Beitenu party into opposition.
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Lieberman had demanded that Netanyahu commit to the ousting of Hamas as the de facto power in Gaza.
"The struggle against Hamas is not a military war," Yediot quoted Turgeman as saying.
"Anyone who thinks that the struggle between us and Hamas is just a matter of applying military force against one another doesn't correctly understand the situation.
"We have an interest in someone being responsible for the strip, because otherwise there will be chaos there and the state of security there will be far more problematic," he said.
"Israel and Hamas have common interests, of peace and quiet for growth and prosperity, even in the present situation."
Hamas is under economic pressure as a result of an Egyptian crackdown on smuggling through tunnels under the border.
Foreign diplomats and aid agencies have voiced concern that a weakened hold on power could prompt Hamas to resume fighting or cause it to lose ground to more radical Islamist groups.