In a significant strategic shift, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is reportedly moving toward a less intensive phase in their ongoing military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This move, indicating a departure from the large-scale operations seen in recent months, aims to mitigate further escalation and reduce civilian casualties.
IDF Chief Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told The New York Times, “The war shifted a stage.” The shift involves reducing the IDF’s presence in Gaza, particularly in the north, and focusing on targeted special operations.
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In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant echoed Hagari’s sentiments. Gallant clarified that while the IDF was pivoting from the “intense maneuvering phase of the war” to “different types of special operations,” this shift was imminent and had not fully materialized. Considering the “huge number of civilians” in the area was a critical factor in this decision.
The conflict, which has been raging since Hamas’s brutal attack on October 7, has seen significant casualties on both sides. The Hamas attack resulted in the death of approximately 1,200 Israelis and the capture of over 240 hostages. In response, Israel initiated a comprehensive offensive, targeting Hamas’s military and governance structures to dismantle their operational capabilities. The IDF claims to have neutralized over 8,500 operatives in Gaza.
However, the humanitarian toll of this conflict has been substantial. Reports from the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza suggest over 23,000 fatalities, a figure including both civilians and Hamas members. The accuracy of these numbers, while unverified, highlights the profound impact of the conflict on the civilian population.
As the IDF adjusts its approach, the focus is now on the central and southern regions of the Gaza Strip, where operations continue to be “intense and complex,” according to Hagari. Despite the reduction in scale, the IDF remains committed to its objective of neutralizing the threat posed by Hamas, albeit through more focused and precise military efforts.
This strategic shift comes at a critical juncture, with the arrival of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Israel. High on Blinken’s agenda is the discussion of this transition in military tactics and efforts to prevent further escalation. However, regional tensions remain high, especially following the alleged Israeli airstrike in Lebanon, which killed a senior Hezbollah commander.
Gallant’s stern warning to Hezbollah underscores the broader regional implications of the Gaza conflict. He cautioned the group, pointing out Israel’s capability to replicate its Gaza strategy in Beirut if necessary.