5:01 pm ET, December 5, 2023
US officials say Israel’s current phase of operations in Gaza will end by January
CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, MJ. From Lee, Alex Marquardt, and Oren Lieberman
US officials are anticipating the current phase Israel’s ground attack on Gaza Several senior administration officials tell CNN that Israel will switch to a low-intensity, hyper-localized strategy that narrowly targets specific Hamas fighters and leaders, targeting the southern end of the Strip several weeks before.
But as the war enters this new arena, the White House is deeply concerned about how Israel’s actions will unfold in the coming weeks, a senior US administration official said.
US warns Israel Committed to “tough” and “direct” dialogue, they said the destructive tactics used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the north cannot be repeated and more must be done to reduce civilian casualties.
With global opinion increasingly turning against its ground operation, which has killed thousands of civilians, the United States has told Israel that time to continue the operation in its current form and still retain meaningful international support is running out.
In the most direct public warning to date, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin advised Israel that “urban warfare can only be won by protecting civilians.”
Speaking at the Reagan National Security Forum over the weekend, Austin said US support for Israel was “non-negotiable”. But he said Israel risks replacing “a tactical victory with a strategic victory” if it does not do more to prevent civilian deaths.
Disaster death toll: According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, nearly 16,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its campaign in October following a terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7. An Israeli official said Israel believed it had killed “several thousand” Hamas fighters.
Although senior Biden administration officials have publicly called on Israel Do more to reduce civilian casualtiesThey have been careful to avoid directly advising Israel on any tactics, believing officials believe it would be more effective to advise Israel quietly behind the scenes rather than out loud.
A senior administration official told CNN they were not comfortable using the word “acceptable” to capture Israel’s response to the administration’s military advice so far — contrary to some public statements by senior members of the administration.
Publicly and privately, Israeli officials say part of their ultimate goal is to weaken Hamas so that the group cannot repeat the attack it unleashed on Israel on October 7.
That goal, a senior U.S. official told CNN, is unlikely to be achieved by the end of the calendar year, and Israel is expected to pursue that objective in the next phase of the conflict, which U.S. officials view as a protracted campaign. .
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