update deskIsrael at War

US estimates Israel’s south Gaza campaign will end in January

Administration officials expect the war to "switch to a lower intensity military strategy, which is focused on hitting specific Hamas leaders."

Israeli troops operating in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Dec. 6, 2023. Credit: IDF.
Israeli troops operating in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Dec. 6, 2023. Credit: IDF.

The IDF offensive against Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip will likely end in January, the U.S. said overnight Tuesday.

Senior officials in the Biden administration told CNN that they expect the current phase of the war involving intensive ground operations in the southern part of the Strip to last several weeks before Jerusalem “will switch to a lower intensity military strategy, which is focused on hitting specific Hamas leaders.”

“The White House is very concerned about how Israel’s actions will unfold in the coming weeks,” a senior official in the administration stressed, according to the report.

“The United States has pointedly and directly warned Israel in closed conversations that the IDF cannot reproduce the destructive tactics it used in the north and must do more to limit civilian casualties,” the source said.

The U.S. told Israel that the more that global opinion turns against the ground campaign, the shorter the window of time Israel has to continue the offensive in its current form while maintaining international support, the sources added.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California on Dec. 2, said that “we will continue to press Israel to protect civilians and to ensure the robust flow of humanitarian aid [to Gaza].”

A senior U.S. official said that Israel’s goal of ensuring that Hamas never threatens its people again will likely not be achieved by year’s end, and that “it is expected that Israel will continue to try and achieve it in the next phase of the conflict that American officials see as a long-term campaign.”

An Israeli official agreed with the American assessment, saying, “We are in a high-intensity operation in the coming weeks, and then we will probably switch to a low-intensity mode.”

The senior Biden administration officials said that they hope that the Israelis “will move to a more focused strategy by January,” similar to how the U.S. transitioned from high-intensity warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq to a more focused campaign against terrorist leaders.

The sources also claimed that the United States prevented a much wider initial invasion of the Gaza Strip after the Oct. 7 massacre. According to the sources, Israel had originally planned an immediate ground, air and sea invasion involving hundreds of thousands of troops across the entire Gaza Strip.

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