Israeli forces targeted southern Gaza today as they resumed the offensive against Hamas. And sources in Tel Aviv warned that it could be another year before it achieves its objective to dismantle the terror organisation.
But, as it launched more than 400 fresh air strikes and artillery bombardments against the cities like Khan Yunis, unease at the tactic among western supporters counted to rise. Last week US president Joe Biden warned his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu that the way Israel operated in northern Gaza, which included a wide assault and three armored and infantry divisions, can’t be repeated in the southern part of the enclave because of the millions of Palestinians who are there now.
According to uncorroborated figures by Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, more than 193 people have been killed since the bombing restarted. At least 1,200 Israeli men, women and children were nurtured and a further 240 taken hostages when Hamas’ military forces attacked Israel in an unprecedented terror attack on October 7.
Launching operation Swords of Iron, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to dismantle the Hamas organisation in order to prevent such an attack ever occurring again. Speaking to BBC Radio 4 Lord Rickets, who served as the UK’s first national security adviser, said Israel is in danger of causing “massive civilian casualties” if it takes the fight to Hamas in southern Gaza.
“They’ve got an increasing dilemma,“ said the peer. “They ordered a million people from the north to leave for the south. They now have two million people there, many of them displaced, many of them living out in the open.
“They simply can’t use the same kind of armoured all-out assault that they used in the north without massive civilian casualties.” He said Tel Aviv’s plan to destroy Hamas “seems to me to be impossible” due to the political and social nature of the organisation.
But Tel Aviv was showing no sign of slowing down, with IDF commanders braced for the operation stretching another year before final objectives are met. These include killing Hamas’ top leaders, Mohammed Deif, the head of Hamas’ military wing and mastermind of last month’s assault, his second in command, Marwan Issa; and Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.
IDF forces also want to break Hamas’ 24 battalions and demolish the group’s tunnel network.
The hybrid operation will focus as much on securing hostage releases and international pressure. Bombardments will continue to play a role. Israel’s IDF defence force said more Hamas combatants had been killed in the 40 strikes levelled at Khan Yunis, where thousands of Palestinians had been sheltering after fleeing homes in the north.
Many were braced for an Israeli ground assault, while leaflets warned residents to leave the area entirely and move south to Rafah. “You have been warned,” the leaflets said in Arabic.
Both sides blamed each other for the collapse of the seven-day ceasefire during which Hamas had released hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The United Nations said the fighting would worsen an extreme humanitarian emergency with Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN. humanitarian office in Geneva.
“Hell on Earth has returned to Gaza,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN. humanitarian office in Geneva. The first aid trucks since the end of the truce entered through the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing on Saturday.
Speaking last night regional expert Catherine Perez- Shakdam of the ACLS think tank said: “The fact is that Netanyahu believes there is no alternative to dismantling Hamas than the path it is currently pursuing. And part of its calculus is the belief that Washington DC is aware of the many less desirable countries, such as Russia, that would gladly support Israel if the US withdraws its backing. The US cannot afford to lose Israel as the region’s only true democracy.”