Israel's Defense Minister Declares End to Intense Phase in Northern Gaza Conflict

World | January 16, 2024, Tuesday // 11:01|  views

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has officially declared the conclusion of the "intense phase" of the ongoing conflict with Hamas in northern Gaza. The declaration includes a promise to bring an end to the ground offensive in the south, particularly targeting the largest city, Khan Younis.

This development comes after more than 100 days of relentless warfare initiated by Hamas, resulting in nearly 1,200 casualties since October 7. The ground operations and bombardments have claimed over 24,000 lives in Gaza, with Israel attributing more than 9,000 of them to Hamas and affiliated groups.

Israel previously asserted victory over all Hamas battalions in the north. Now, as the military seeks to eliminate the last remaining forces, Minister Gallant outlines the planned conclusion of the intense maneuvers in southern Gaza. Although he refrains from specifying a timeline, Gallant assures that the transition to the next phase will occur "soon," adapting to the evolving reality on the ground.

The military achievements, according to Gallant, include the destruction of Hamas' military infrastructure in central Gaza, targeting rocket production sites and explosive facilities. The current focus shifts to what Gallant refers to as the "head of the snake" - the leadership of Hamas.

Notably, roads leading to Rafah, near where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge, are reportedly cut off both underground and above ground. The strategic moves aim to further isolate Hamas and restrict its activities.

Amidst these developments, Hamas responds with psychological tactics, exploiting the fate of 132 hostages remaining in the strip. The release of a distressing video featuring the bodies of two Israeli hostages and a third reading from a script has intensified concerns. The Israeli army denies the claims, sparking division within the military cabinet on the appropriate course of action.

Former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and his successor Gadi Eisenkot advocate for a new deal for the hostages, even if it means a prolonged ceasefire. In contrast, the Likud party, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister Gallant, opposes such concessions, emphasizing the importance of maintaining military pressure for negotiations.

The fate of the hostages has become a contentious issue, with discussions even considering a Qatari proposal involving a truce, a road map for ending the war, exile for Hamas leaders, and Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza.

Minister Gallant also stresses the need for a clear policy regarding the future of the Gaza Strip. He warns that political indecision may hinder military progress and asserts that the future government in Gaza must be Palestinian-led.

As tensions persist and the conflict evolves, the Israeli cabinet grapples with the delicate balance between military strategy, hostage negotiations, and the geopolitical future of the Gaza Strip.

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Tags: Israel, Gaza, Hostages, military


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