Gaza: Long campaign by Israel may follow war

Gaza: Long campaign by Israel may follow war

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent comments that the intense phase of fighting in Gaza was about to end essentially confirmed what has become increasingly clear in the past few months.

The Israeli army has portrayed its current operation in the southern city of Rafah as its last major ground offensive in Gaza.

It went ahead, despite concerted international opposition. It has involved Israeli strikes that have killed large numbers of Palestinian civilians. But it has not seen the remorseless level of bombardment that characterised earlier assaults on Gaza City and Khan Younis.

Israeli forces backed by tanks are still battling with Palestinian fighters in the west of Rafah, while the army continues to demolish swathes of buildings in the city.

The IDF has said that it has severely degraded three of the four Hamas battalions that it has said remain in Rafah, which was Israel's main aim. That holds out the possibility that the army may soon declare that the operation has been completed.

None of this has been any solace to the people of Gaza. There's been little or no respite for them. Casualty figures from the health ministry in Gaza - run by Hamas - are still recording around 40 to 60 deaths a day.

Israel is carrying out strikes every day elsewhere in Gaza - both in the north and in the centre. There is no current prospect of an end to this. Key to Mr Netanyahu's strategy in Gaza is the freedom for Israel to mount attacks when and where it considers necessary, even if at some point all its troops have been withdrawn from the enclave.

In Washington, the Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant has been discussing with top US officials what he himself called Phase C - the third, less intensive stage - of Israel's campaign from relatively early on in the conflict.

He told the US special envoy Amos Hochstein in one of his first meetings during his four day visit that the transition to Phase C would "impact developments on all fronts, and that Israel was preparing for every scenario both militarily and diplomatically".

That message is one he will have continued to drive home in subsequent discussions with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin.

Source: BBC

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