Israeli ground forces were fighting Hamas fighters deep in Gaza, Israel said on Tuesday. The development signals an important new stage in the month-long conflict, and its leaders They plan to control the security of the enclave after the war.
Joe Biden’s administration appears to be moving closer to the Israeli position that the IDF will have to maintain some degree of control after its war aimed at eradicating Hamas.
“I think we can all foresee a period of time after the conflict ends in which the Israeli forces likely to remain in Gaza and they will have some initial security responsibilities,” he told cnn the spokesman for the United States National Security Council, John Kirby.
This is the first time a US official has publicly made such an acknowledgment, just days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments about controlling Gaza security for “an indefinite period,” which pointed to the uncertain end of a war that, according to Israel, it will be long and difficult.
Israeli ground troops have fought Palestinian militants inside Gaza for more than a week, cutting the territory in half and surrounding Gaza City. The army’s chief spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagarisaid that Israeli ground forces “are located right now in a ground operation deep inside Gaza City and are putting great pressure on Hamas.”
Israelis marked the 30th day – a milestone in Jewish mourning – since the Hamas incursion, which killed 1,400 people. Around 240 people who Hamas kidnapped during the attack remain in Gaza, and more than 250,000 Israelis have evacuated their homes near the Gaza and Lebanon borders as rockets were continuously fired at Israel.
Hundreds of relatives of hostages held in Gaza joined supporters Tuesday at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to call for the release of their loved ones.
“The hostages have been underground in Gaza for 32 days. I cry out to every person here and every person on the planet to make it their mission to free these souls,” he said. Rachel Goldberga prominent spokesperson for the hostage families, with a broken voice.
Israel has vowed to remove Hamas from power and crush its military capabilities, but neither Israel nor its main ally, the United States, have said what will happen next.
Netanyahu told ABC News that Gaza should be governed by “those who do not want to continue the path of Hamas,” without giving further details.
“I believe that Israel will have, for an indefinite period, overall responsibility for security because we have seen what happens when we don’t have it. When we don’t have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale we couldn’t imagine,” he said.
Netanyahu did not make clear what form that security check would take. The White House reiterated Tuesday that President Joe Biden does not support an Israeli reoccupation of the Gaza Strip after the war.
“We believe there needs to be a series of healthy conversations about what post-conflict Gaza will look like and what governance will look like.“, said kirbyadding that he would leave it to Netanyahu to clarify what “indefinite” means.
Israeli officials say the offensive against Hamas will last some time and acknowledge that they have not yet formulated a concrete plan for what will come after the war. The Minister of Defense has said that Israel does not seek long-term reoccupation of Gaza, but predicted a prolonged phase of low-intensity fighting against “pockets of resistance”. Other officials have talked about establishing a buffer zone that would keep Palestinians away from the Israeli border.
“Several options are being discussed for the day after Hamas,” said Ophir Falk, a senior Netanyahu adviser. “The common denominator of all plans is that 1) there is no Hamas 2) Gaza is demilitarized 3) Gaza is deradicalized.”
Israel withdrew troops and settlers in 2005, but maintained control over Gaza’s airspace, coastline, population register, and border crossings, except one into Egypt. Hamas seized power from forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, confining its Palestinian Authority to parts of the occupied West Bank. Since then, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza to varying degrees.
In his interview with ABCNetanyahu also expressed openness for the first time to “small pauses” in the fighting to facilitate the delivery of aid to Gaza or the release of hostages. But he ruled out any general ceasefire without the release of all hostages.
(With information from AP)