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Gaza Strip: analysts believe war will continue until Israel destroys Hamas

The seven-day truce between Israel and Hamas ended on Friday (1st), after negotiations reached an impasse and Israel accused the radical Islamic group of violating the agreement by firing at Israel.

The nearly eight-week war that preceded the lull in fighting caused widespread destruction and saw more than 14,800 people killed in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank, which draws its data from Hamas-run health authorities in Gaza.

However, for the next round of fighting, the United States has made it clear to Israel that the scale of devastation is unlikely to be repeated.

Whether Israel will listen is a different question. Analysts say the war is likely to continue until Hamas is crushed, and this time it could be much more violent.

The Israeli military’s announcement about the resumption of fighting came moments after the end of the truce between Israel and Hamas. The deal saw the warring parties exchange hostages held in Gaza for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised this week that Israel would fight to the end. His government informed the US, before the end of the truce, that it intended to eventually return its focus to the southern part of the enclave after fighting resumed.

Benny Gantz, who is part of the war cabinet, said on Wednesday (29) that the fighting “would expand to wherever it is needed throughout the Gaza Strip. There will be no cities of refuge.”

It is unclear whether there will be another truce, but with more than 100 hostages still in Hamas captivity, it could theoretically be resumed for several days if both sides agree to extend it by one day for every 10 hostages released, analysts said.

The agreement, however, mainly included women and children. Of the 137 people Israel believes are still in Hamas captivity, 20 are women and 2 are under 18, the prime minister’s office said Friday.

During the Oct. 7 attack, Hamas killed more than 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped about 240 others, Israeli officials said.

Negotiations with Qatari and Egyptian mediators on the release of the detained hostages are ongoing, he told CNN a source familiar with the negotiations, even after Israel’s announcement that it would resume its operation.

Israel paid “a great price” for the pause in fighting, he told CNN Yaakov Amidror, a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies who was previously Netanyahu’s national security adviser, noting that the truce “broke the momentum of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and gave Hamas the ability to regroup.” .

“We understand that and we were ready to pay that price, because it is a price that should be paid for the release of the hostages,” he said, adding that Israel is prepared for more intense fighting to make up for lost time.

What happens now?

The US is exerting pressure on Israel to avoid mass civilian casualties in the next round of fighting.

“I underscored the United States’ imperative that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement on the scale we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a televised interview in Tel Aviv. , on Thursday (30).

Blinken said he has “made it clear” to Israel that it must implement humanitarian protection plans and safeguard hospitals, power plants and facilities. He said Netanyahu agreed to take measures to protect civilians.

How this will manifest itself is not yet clear.

Frank Lowenstein, who worked as Special Envoy for Israel-Palestine Negotiations under US President Barack Obama during the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, told CNN that if Israel follows US advice, “it will be a very strong indication of how much influence we really have over the Israelis.

If Israel adopts the same military approach in the south as it has in the north, “it could lead to increasingly open disagreement with the Biden administration,” he said.

“Given that the Israelis likely want to avoid major public discord, there is a reasonable likelihood that they will take at least some steps to moderate their approach in the next phase.”

Biden administration officials have been discussing with their Israeli counterparts how to protect civilians who have fled south from Gaza should the IDF attack the area again, U.S. officials told CNN previously.

Options being considered include transferring civilians who have gone south back to the north once military operations end, a senior US official told CNN . Israel has so far warned displaced Palestinians against returning to the north, saying the area remains unsafe.

It is unclear how hundreds of thousands of displaced residents will be able to return to the north, where up to half the homes have been destroyed, satellite analysis shows.

On Friday, the IDF dropped leaflets on Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, calling it a “combat zone” and telling residents to “evacuate immediately.”

Khan Younis, Rafah and the southern Middle provinces are home to around 920,000 internally displaced people, says the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which estimates that around 1.8 million people – more than 80% of Gaza’s population – have been displaced across the Gaza Strip since 7 October.

Gershon Baskin, a former Israeli hostage negotiator who once served as a conduit for Hamas, said it would be difficult for Gazans to return to their homes in the north, as most of those neighborhoods “are no longer inhabitable.”

However, he does not see the war ending without the Israeli military moving south, especially to Khan Younis and Rafah.

Urban warfare

If the fighting moves south, “it will definitely be different,” said Riad Kahwaji, founder and CEO of the Near East and Gulf Institute for Military Analysis, a strategy and security consultancy in Dubai.

That part of Gaza, Kahwaji told CNN is densely populated.

“This area was designated as a safe area, and Israel made almost a million Palestinians who lived in the north move to the south, under the pretext that military operations were in the north, although there was still shelling in the south,” he said. he.

It is unclear what form Israel’s operation in the south would take, but Kahwaji said Israel may struggle to maintain Western support as images of bloodshed and devastation stream from Gaza.

“The images of destroyed buildings, with babies being killed and women being dragged through the rubble, have seriously tarnished Israel’s image.”

With the truce extensions, Hamas may have hoped that international pressure would build on Israel to avoid a resumption of war, said Baskin, the former negotiator, noting that Israeli society overwhelmingly supports an operation that eliminates Hamas.

Lowenstein, the former US envoy, suggested that the immediate focus would likely be “providing safe zones and passage in the south,” adding that, however, “it is far from clear to what extent this is feasible” given that hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians are living “in a very small area”.

“And already catastrophic humanitarian conditions are likely to become even more dire as the weather worsens and the health situation deteriorates further,” he said.

Kahwaji stated that one element that will likely be a factor in Israel’s military calculations is the cost-benefit analysis of each tactic: ground operations versus air offensives.

Israel has relied mainly on airstrikes and targeted bombings in its war against Hamas, which has spared it major troop casualties, he said. If it decides on a mainly land-based offensive in the south to lessen civilian losses, it will be a challenge for its soldiers, he added.

“Urban warfare is the most difficult warfare,” said Kahwaji. “It is considered hell for any soldier on an offensive operation.”

Amidror, Netanyahu’s former adviser, said that although Israel does what it can to minimize civilian losses, it cannot stop its military operation because Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”

“Suppose there is no technical way to combat and destroy Hamas without harming civilians,” Amidror said. “What’s your advice? Give immunity to Hamas because they are so successful in trying to use civilians as human shields?”

“From our point of view [de Israel], Hamas does not have any immunity and we will destroy Hamas,” he said. “And if civilians in Gaza are paying a price for this, we are very sorry, but the issue must be applied to Hamas.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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