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US pressure causes Israel to tighten rules of engagement—report

The Israeli army is applying stricter rules on its soldiers at the behest of the U.S, Israel Hayom reported. The IDF denies it.

IDF soldiers active in the Gaza Strip, Dec. 28, 2023. Credit: IDF.
IDF soldiers active in the Gaza Strip, Dec. 28, 2023. Credit: IDF.

The Israeli army has adjusted its rules of engagement due to political pressure from the U.S.

IDF units must “exercise greater caution and greater accuracy” before opening fire to be sure they’ve correctly identified terrorist targets, Israel Hayom reported on Sunday.

“Even artillery fire, tank fire or air force bombardment is out of the question, even in areas where civilians don’t live and from which Hamas has attacked the IDF many times,” the report claims.

The Hebrew-language daily said it had received testimony from soldiers in two cases where they had requested air force bombardment of a position to “soften up” an enemy position but had been refused.

The report laid the blame for Israeli concessions on U.S. President Joe Biden’s desire that Israel “be focused on how to save civilian lives” and be “more careful,” in remarks he made on Dec. 14.

While the U.S. has been steadfast in supplying Israel with war material during the Gaza conflict, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken fast-tracking on Friday an arms sale to Israel, the sale of these weapons appears to come at a price as Washington pushes Jerusalem to reduce the intensity of its ground incursion.

At the end of a mid-December trip to Israel, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced that Israel would move to a narrower offensive.

“There will be a transition to another phase of this war, one that is focused in more precise ways on targeting the [terrorist] leadership and on intelligence-driven operations that continues to deal with the ongoing threat that Hamas poses,” Sullivan said at a Tel Aviv news conference.

Following Sullivan’s trip, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Israel and appeared to confirm that the U.S. wanted the Jewish state to move to a more targeted offensive, speaking during a joint press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Dec. 18.

“Regarding the timeline, this is Israel’s operation and I’m not here to dictate timelines or terms,” Austin said, then adding, “And we also have some great thoughts about how to transition from high-intensity operations to lower intensity and more surgical operations. So we had great discussions on all of those—those issues.”

The IDF denied any change to the rules of engagement, telling JNS: “As for the rules of engagement, no change was made in the aspects of engaging when presented with a direct threat to the security of our forces. The general engagement policy is updated from time to time in accordance with the situational assessment. The security of our forces as well as purity of arms are priorities of the IDF and the commanders in the field.”

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