Israel warns that the war in Gaza to defeat Hamas will take several months

Netanyahu tries to iron out differences with the United States, thanking it for delivering weapons for the war and vetoing the UN call for a ceasefire

Benjamín Netanyahu
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan greets Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after his meeting with the war cabinet at the Kirya base, Israel's military headquarters.EFE/Oficina del Primer Ministro de Israel
Luis de Vega

On Thursday, Israel thanked the United States for its support in the form of arms for the war in Gaza and for vetoing a possible UN call for a ceasefire, despite international pressure. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv in an attempt to iron out the differences that have arisen between the two allied countries over the management of the war in the Gaza Strip. However, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Sullivan that, no matter how much haste Washington seeks, this large-scale military operation —which has already left over 18,500 dead— will not be finished in weeks but rather in months. The fighting and bombing continues to rage across the Palestinian enclave as the humanitarian crisis worsens for hundreds of thousands of Gazans.

Netanyahu and members of his war cabinet met with the U.S. delegation at a military base. “I greatly appreciate U.S. support for Israel in supplying ammunition for the army and blocking U.N. attempts to stop the fighting,” the prime minister said. According to a statement from the office of the Israeli prime minister, both sides affirmed their commitment to securing the release of all the remaining hostages in Gaza; there are over 130 of them, although some 15 are already presumed dead.

“Our heroic fighters have not fallen in vain. From the deep pain of their loss, we are more determined than ever to continue fighting until Hamas is eliminated, until absolute victory,” the prime minister said. His remarks follow Tuesday’s ambush by Islamist militiamen in northern Gaza in which nine soldiers were killed.

Earlier, Gallant had told Sullivan that, despite U.S. pressure, the armed conflict could not be ended in the short term. “Hamas is a terrorist organization (...) with an infrastructure underground and on the ground that is not easy to destroy. It will require a period of time of more than several months, but we will win, and we will destroy them,” the defense minister told him, according to a statement.

Last week, the U.S. vetoed a possible humanitarian ceasefire in the UN Security Council. But President Joe Biden also warned that his ally is losing support because of the results of the heavy and indiscriminate bombing, which has already killed more than 18,500 people. Washington is also calling on Netanyahu not to discard the possibility of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) being part of Gaza’s future once Israel eliminates Hamas, which is its main goal.

The high commissioner of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, warned that the Gaza Strip’s population of 2.3 million is now crammed into less than a third of the original territory, almost all of it to the south, along the border with Egypt. There, he said during a speech in Geneva, they feel “betrayed” and “abandoned” by the international community. Lazzarini added that “there is nowhere to feel safe in Gaza,” and once again called for a humanitarian ceasefire.

A new communications blackout

Meanwhile, the war continues to rage in both the northern and southern parts of the Gaza Strip. 45% of the 29,000 bombs dropped by Israel from the air during the conflict are so-called non-smart bombs, according to a U.S. intelligence source quoted by CNN. 1.8 million people live displaced in the territory in very precarious conditions with almost no food, water or electricity. On Thursday, the area experienced a new communications blackout, the fifth since the war began, the Red Crescent said. The organization added that the blackout not only impeded the communication of the teams on the ground, but also directly affected the rescue and transfer of the wounded and sick.

In 69 days of war, Israel has killed over 18,500 people, but it has not managed to hunt down any of the major Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip. One sign that it needs a victory is the latest initiative of air-dropping leaflets that call for citizen collaboration in exchange for money. “Think about your future. Confidentiality guaranteed,” the pamphlet announces. The brochure was disseminated on social networks and in the Israeli press; in the material, the faces of four Hamas militia leaders appear in order of importance along with the price Israel would pay for information leading to their capture.

The face of Yahia Sinwar, considered to be the top Hamas official in Gaza, appears in the foreground. Israel is offering $400,000 (about €365,000) for his capture. Some hostages are said to have seen Sinwar in the tunnels before they were released during the ceasefire at the end of November; the Israeli army said that it had surrounded his house in Khan Younis last week without knowing whether he was inside. After him, his brother Mohamed Sinwar ($300,000), Rafaa Salameh ($200,000) and Mohamed Deif ($100,000) are listed on the distributed flyer, in order of importance. To continue the military campaign —which began on October 7 when Hamas militiamen killed some 1,200 people in Israeli territory— on Wednesday, Israel approved a budget increase of some $7,867,766,000.

Violence also continues in the West Bank, especially in Jenin, where the Israeli army killed at least 12 Palestinians in the most intense and prolonged incursion since the conflict began. According to Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières), one of the casualties was a teenager killed while he was in that locality’s Jalil Suleiman hospital, the scene of a three-day military operation. The NGO’s team witnessed the events without being able to save the youth’s life. In addition, Doctors without Borders added, the soldiers stopped ambulances, forced the drivers to get out and, after stripping them naked, made them kneel on the street. “Since October 7 (the first day of war), we have seen Israeli forces firing live bullets at the hospital, firing tear gas, blocking ambulances, humiliating and harassing medical staff, and now shooting and killing someone in the hospital compound,” laments the humanitarian organization on X (formerly Twitter).

In an unusual move by the army, the institution announced that it had removed several soldiers from the three-day mission in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. The soldiers recorded videos in a mosque in which they sang Jewish songs and mocked Islam and Palestinians. Recordings of this kind come to light every day. In them, uniformed soldiers, primarily in Gaza, celebrate the blowing up of buildings, humiliate detainees, raid stores or homes, and laugh at the humanitarian crisis that Gazans are suffering as a result of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. “The soldiers acted against the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) codes of conduct inside a religious establishment” and “they were immediately withdrawn” for “serious” misconduct contrary to “the values” of the army; as a result, the army announced on X that the soldiers will be punished.

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