Israel’s war against Hamas is likely to be a protracted conflict which spills into next year — but tensions are growing over the war’s exact timeline.
The Israeli Defense Forces have sought to corner Hamas in recent weeks, encircling Khan Younis, the southern Gaza Strip’s largest city, in an attempt to drive out its leadership.
Hamas has threatened to kill its remaining Israeli hostages.
The IDF believes that it will control all of Hamas’s strongholds in the Gaza Strip within the next six weeks, Hebrew-language outlet Mako reported. But Israel has indicated that it is willing to continue its war for months if necessary, even as international support has started to dwindle. Meanwhile, negotiations between Israel and Hamas have broken down, mediators said. “The evaluation that this can’t be measured in weeks is correct, and I’m not sure it can be measured in months,” Israel’s national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said.
The U.S. appears to be running out of patience with Israel’s operation, Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted. The Biden administration will reportedly call for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from the strip and redeploy them near the border to conduct smaller-scale raids. Washington recently vetoed a UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, but has given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just three weeks to carry out the war in its current iteration, Politico reported, although a top-ranking U.S. official said there was no hard deadline to end the Israeli campaign. “Israel could stretch American patience for a few additional weeks beyond January 1, but for now, it seems that this will be the limit,” Haaretz said.
Israel’s current bombing campaign isn’t working, one analyst argued. Thousands of Palestinians — most of them civilians — have been killed since the IDF began bombarding the Gaza Strip in October. Israel says it is targeting Hamas operatives, but “the evident lack of discrimination raises real questions about what the government is actually up to,” political scientist Robert Pape wrote in Foreign Affairs. He said that Israel’s campaign has failed to significantly weaken Hamas’s control over Gaza and families of hostages are angry about Netanyahu’s attempts to rescue the remaining captives. “The only way to deal a lasting defeat to Hamas is to attack its leaders and fighters while separating them from the surrounding population,” Pape argued.