The Israeli government is announcing a turning point, which is not shared by everyone
Israel is about to begin the new phase of the war against Hamas. The large-scale offensive conducted in the Gaza Strip with “high-intensity maneuvers” is destined to “end soon”, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said. The defense forces (IDF) are acting to “eliminate pockets of resistance in the northern area” of the Strip.
“We will reach the objectives with raids, airstrikes, special operations and other activities,” he added. The initial plan, after the attack launched by Hamas on 7 October, envisaged “a phase of high intensity maneuvers” for approximately 3 months. Therefore, the transition to a subsequent step with operations in line “with the reality on the field” and with the information provided by “our intelligence”.
A sign of change could be represented by the withdrawal of the 36th division. According to an IDF spokesperson interviewed by CNN, the decision aims to allow “a period of rest and training” for the soldiers, who in the future will be assigned to operations that are not yet planned. The division’s temporary exit from the scene was enough to fuel controversy in Israel.
The Minister of National Security, the far-right exponent Itamar Ben Gvir, harshly criticized the decision to withdraw the division from Gaza, saying that the move “will cost human lives”. According to Ben Gvir, “the volley of rockets” launched in the last few hours from Gaza towards Israel “demonstrates once again that the occupation of the Strip is necessary to achieve the objectives of the fighting”. Of the three divisions remaining in the enclave, the 162nd is engaged in the northern part of the Strip against the last remaining Hamas fighters, the 99th operates in the center of the Strip and the 98th is fighting Hamas in the southern area of Khan Yunis.
The US observes: “The military campaign changes in Gaza”
Israeli decisions and strategies are observed by the United States. “The risk of the conflict widening remains real, but we see a path towards a change in the military campaign in Gazaa reduction in tension and exchange of fire on Israel’s northern border, a reduction in the risk of escalation elsewhere in the region as we continue to address the threat from the Houthis,” said White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan , outlining an overall picture.
“We see a path, and we are enthusiastically working with partners in the region to follow this path, but at the same time we must be vigilant for the possibility that instead of de-escalation we go towards escalation,” continued the Joe Biden advisor , underlining that therefore the focus of Washington’s strategy in the face of the crisis is to “ensure that we can manage the escalation in the Middle East to its maximum extent, taking all the necessary steps to arrive at a path of diplomacy and de escalation“.
“The current Israeli government has expressed quite strong positions publicly on the Palestinian issue and there are voices and elements of the government that have been strongly criticized by the American government for certain positions taken,” he added, in Davos, responding to a question regarding to the differences in positions between Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and Joe Biden’s administration on the two-state solution.
“The Israeli government will have to make its choice on how best to guarantee and ensure the security of the state of Israel and it is President Biden’s firm belief that the best way to do this is as 2 states within the Israeli security guarantees,” he added the advisor, who recalled how, before the attacks of October 7, the Biden administration had been engaged for months in a diplomatic effort to continue the “normalization of Israel’s relations with Arab countries linked to a political horizon for the Palestinian people” .