Israeli defence minister outlines new phase in Gaza war

Israeli defence minister outlines new phase in Gaza war
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JERUSALEM, Jan 4 (Reuters) – Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday outlined his plans for the next stage of Israel’s war in Gaza and his vision of a future arrangement which would see the enclave run by a Palestinian body under overall Israeli security control.

He said the military would base its strategy on a new, more targeted approach in the northern section of the enclave and a continuing pursuit of Hamas leaders in the south.

The announcement came as Israel continued drawing down its forces in Gaza to allow thousands of reservists to return to their jobs after growing international pressure to shift to less intense combat operations.

“In the northern region of the Gaza strip, we will transition to a new combat approach in accordance with military achievements on the ground,” Gallant’s office said in a statement it said outlined the guiding principles reflecting Gallant’s vision for the next phases of the war.

He said operations would include raids, demolishing tunnels, air and ground strikes, and special forces operations.

In the south of the besieged enclave, where most of Gaza’s 2.3 million population is now living, many in tents and other temporary shelters, the operation would continue to try to eliminate Hamas leaders and rescue Israeli hostages.

“It will continue for as long as is deemed necessary,” the statement said.

Israel launched its offensive in Gaza following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas gunmen who killed about 1,200 people in communities near Gaza and took around 240 into captivity as hostages, according to Israeli estimates.

The offensive has killed more than 22,000 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, forced most of the population out of their homes and reduced much of Gaza to rubble.


After the war, Gallant said Hamas would no longer control Gaza and Israel would reserve its operational freedom of action, with a multinational task force led by the United States in partnership with the European Union and regional partners taking responsibility for rehabilitating the territory.

But he ruled out a return of the Israeli settlements in Gaza withdrawn in 2005, saying there would be no Israeli civilian presence and that Palestinian bodies would govern the enclave.

“Gaza residents are Palestinian, therefore Palestinian bodies will be in charge, with the condition that there will be no hostile actions or threats against the State of Israel,” he said.

Israel would “provide information to guide civilian operations” and continue to inspect goods entering Gaza for security reasons.

Gallant said Israel maintained a dialogue about interim and long-term solutions with Egypt, which he described as a “major actor”, but gave no details.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far resisted laying out a clear vision for the future of Gaza but has ruled out a role for the Palestinian Authority, the body that was set up under the 30 year-old Oslo Accords and exercises limited governance in the occupied West Bank.

Gallant’s statement gave no details about what sort of Palestinian body he envisioned running Gaza but said the entity “will build on the capabilities of the existing administrative mechanism (civil committees) in Gaza – local non-hostile actors.”

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