Israel Fights on Three Fronts as It Debates How to End Gaza War

Israel Fights on Three Fronts as It Debates How to End Gaza War
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Israel’s military said it had carried out strikes in Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip as the country’s security cabinet prepared for a key meeting later on Tuesday to discuss ways to extricate itself from its three-month-old war in the isolated Palestinian enclave.

Israel said its jet fighters hit Syrian military positions outside Damascus and buildings in a southern Lebanon village that the Israeli military said had been used by Hezbollah fighters. 

Meanwhile, Israeli forces said they were still fighting for control of important parts of the Gaza Strip, where the war has claimed the lives of more than 22,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to health officials in the enclave. The death toll, which doesn’t distinguish between militants and civilians, represents roughly 1% of the Gaza Strip’s prewar population.

The latest attacks came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to hold a meeting of the security cabinet to discuss the volatile conflict as some ministers called on the government to develop plans to depopulate the Gaza Strip of Palestinians.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir joined Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in promoting the idea of trying to force as many Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip as they can—an idea denounced by critics as a violation of international human rights laws. The two ministers aren’t part of the smaller group of Israeli leaders that has been making the main wartime decisions since early October. 

The Israeli government hasn’t adopted their idea as its policy, and has repeatedly said it doesn’t plan to reoccupy Gaza in the long term. Israel pulled out of the enclave in 2005. A spokeswoman for Netanyahu, Tal Heinrich, declined to comment specifically on the ministers’ statements, but said that the prime minister believed that “the future of Palestinians from Gaza is in Gaza.” 

The calls from the two ministers reflect the internal fissures in the Israeli government over the best ways to end the war in Gaza and ensure that Hamas fighters aren’t able to carry out another deadly attack on Israel.

Ben-Gvir’s comments came days after Smotrich proposed the same idea, which was denounced by Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmad Tibi as “inciting genocide.”

Israel has yet to develop a plan for what should happen in Gaza when the war comes to an end. Israeli officials are preparing for months of combat in the Gaza Strip as world leaders wrestle with how to bring the fighting to a halt.

President Biden is pushing Netanyahu to link an end to the war to renewed peace talks with Palestinian leaders and a resumed discussion about the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, something the prime minister has rebuffed.

More than 85% of Gaza’s two million residents have been displaced since Israel invaded the densely populated area in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas cross-border attack that the government said killed more than 1,200 people, most of them civilians.

Nearly 70% of Gaza’s 439,000 homes and about half of its buildings have been damaged or destroyed over the past three months. Most of the strip’s 36 hospitals are shut down, and only eight are accepting patients. More than two-thirds of its schools are damaged. International aid groups are also warning of a growing threat of hunger and disease. 

Dalya Samhadana, a mother of two, fled from Khan Younis to Rafah and is staying with her relatives in their homes. She said the family didn’t have enough water, the health of her daughter and her mother was worsening, and they had no access to medication.

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