Israel News

December 28, 2023

War Can Take Months as Fighting on Seven Fronts Continues

IDF chief of staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi on Tuesday said that it could take months to arrest or kill Hamas’s top leaders and “many months” to finish fighting Hamas. Halevi implied that he recognized the broader diplomatic and political context will not allow a full all-out war for that long and said that the IDF would adjust itself to different intensity levels of fighting as needed.

The IDF chief also said that Israel would need new security mechanisms and tactics even after the different levels of fighting became less intense to ensure long-term security for Israeli residents in the south.

“This war has critical goals which are not easy to achieve and take place in a complex environment. Therefore, this war will continue for many months, and we will act in different ways so that our achievements will be sustained over time,” said Halevi.

“We will also get to the leaders of Hamas, whether it takes a week or months,” he added.

Halevi described the IDF as having operational control of northern Gaza, while acknowledging that Hamas forces who faded into the civilian populations will still emerge with ambushes from time to time. He said the IDF must ramp up its dominance in southern Gaza, where Khan Younis is the new focal point, and also make sure it addresses Hamas in central Gaza, even as that mission is somewhat lower profile.

Defense minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel is in the midst of a war on seven different fronts and it would be a long, hard war with a heavy price.

“We are in a multi-arena war; we are being attacked from seven different sectors—Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran,” Gallant told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “We have already responded and acted on six of these fronts, and I am saying here in the most explicit way: anyone who acts against us is a potential target, there is no immunity for anyone.”

“I want to tell you that this is a long, hard war. It comes with a price, a heavy price, but its justification is of the highest caliber,” Gallant added. “We were brutally and barbarically attacked to discourage us from living here. We must make it clear that whoever makes a move of this kind will be punished. Whether it takes months or whether it takes years, we need to wrap up this issue.”

IDF Expands Operations in Central Gaza

Meanwhile, the IDF said it was further expanding its operations in the central Gaza Strip.

“The IDF forces are fighting in the Gaza Strip in Khan Younis, and we have expanded the fighting to the area called the ‘Central Camps,’” IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Tuesday evening. “We are operating in Khan Younis with new methods and with a different composition of forces, and the same is true of the central camps,” he added, referring to the area made up of several refugee camps in central Gaza. “We will continue to adapt the operation, the method, and the composition of the forces according to the operational needs.”

Khan Younis is the largest city in southern Gaza, where many leaders of the Hamas terror group are believed to have fled. On Monday, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, assumed to be in Khan Younis, appeared defiant in his first message since the October 7 massacre, grossly inflating the terror group’s achievements in the war.

The IDF also said Tuesday that the 36th Division was moving away from the Gaza City area and striking Hamas’s Al-Bureij battalion, which consists of around 1,000 fighters and is just one of four Hamas battalions in the terror group’s central camps brigade.

Separately, the IDF carried out an air strike in Syria on Monday, killing one of Iran’s top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officials, Sayyed Razi Mousavi. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, vowed that Israel “will certainly pay for this crime,” while foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted that “Tel Aviv faces a tough countdown.”

Mousavi was responsible for coordinating the military alliance between Iran and Syria and was believed by Israel to be heavily involved in Tehran’s efforts to supply weapons to terror proxies in the area, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported that Mousavi was “one of the oldest advisers of IRGC in Syria” and close to former IRGC Quds force head, Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a 2020 US drone strike in Iraq.

Israel Weighs Egyptian Peace Proposal

Israel’s war cabinet this week was considering an Egyptian proposal to end the war in Gaza as domestic pressure grows to secure the release of hostages and regional powers look for a solution to end the fighting.

The Egyptian proposal calls for an initial pause in fighting to allow for the release of Israeli hostages including children, women, and elderly in need of urgent medical attention, in exchange for the release of around 140 Palestinian prisoners. It would be followed by the formation of a transitional government for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank made up of various Palestinian factions, including Hamas.

The three main members of Israel’s war cabinet, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, defense minister Yoav Gallant, and Benny Gantz, have said that Hamas can’t be permitted to remain in power.

A delegation from the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization is expected to go to Cairo soon to discuss the proposal, including the makeup of a potential, unified government that would run the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The PLO, which represents Palestinians at the United Nations, initially said it had rejected the proposal after seeing parts of it. Hamas isn’t part of the PLO.

Israel is willing to discuss the first stage of the Egyptian proposal, which would see the release of hostages held by Hamas in exchange for Israel’s release of Palestinian prisoners, said Danny Danon, a senior lawmaker in Netanyahu’s Likud party who isn’t a member of the security cabinet. That was the same formula for a previous hostage release agreement earlier in the war.

“The first phase is something we were willing to start a dialogue or negotiation about,” Danon said. About the later stages, he said, “We are very determined to make sure that Hamas will not be part of any future agreement in Gaza.”

The Israeli government is reviewing the Egyptian proposal because it takes any opportunity to free hostages seriously, Danon said, adding that there is a possibility the first phase of the proposal could be revived in the future.