Israeli defense minister vows to fight on in Gaza despite rising international pressure

AP , Thursday 14 Dec 2023

Israel’s defense minister said Thursday it will take “more than several months” to destroy Hamas, predicting a drawn-out war even as his country and its top ally, the United States, face increasing international isolation and alarm over the devastation from Israel’s campaign in Gaza.

Palestinians look for survivors amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following Israeli bombardment
Palestinians look for survivors amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following Israeli bombardment in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on December 14, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. AFP


Yoav Gallant's comments ahead of talks in Tel Aviv with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan underscored a dynamic that has held between the two allies for weeks.

The Biden administration has shown unease over Israel’s failure to reduce civilian casualties and its plans for the future of Gaza, but it continues to offer wholehearted support for Israel’s campaign with weapons and diplomatic backing.

Meanwhile, Israeli leaders have repeatedly said they plan to pursue their military assault until Hamas is crushed, though any hopes of a swift victory have vanished.

A deadly Hamas ambush on Israeli troops in Gaza City this week showed the group’s resilience and called into question whether Israel can defeat it without wiping out the entire territory.

Gallant said Hamas has been building military infrastructure in Gaza for more than a decade, “and it is not easy to destroy them. It will require time.”

“It will last more than several months, but we will win and destroy them,” he said.

Israel has imposed a total siege on northern Gaza, including Gaza City, and has flattened much of it in what is already one of the 21st century’s most devastating military campaigns.

Sullivan's visit comes days after President Joe Biden said Israel was losing international support because of its “indiscriminate bombing.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to fight to the end, “even given the great pain and the international pressure,” saying late Wednesday that “nothing will stop us.”

The Palestinian telecommunications provider Paltel said Thursday that all communication services across Gaza were cut off due to ongoing fighting, severing the besieged territory from the outside world.

Heavy fighting has raged for days in areas around eastern Gaza City that were encircled earlier in the war. Tens of thousands of people remain in the north despite repeated evacuation orders, saying they don’t feel safe anywhere in Gaza or fear they may never be allowed to return to their homes if they leave.

Israel’s air and ground assault on the Gaza Strip has killed more than 18,700 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

The Ministry's latest count did not specify how many were women and minors, but they have consistently made up around two-thirds of the dead in previous tallies. Thousands more are missing and feared dead beneath the rubble.

Nearly 1.9 million Palestinians have been driven from their homes, with most seeking refuge in the south, even as Israel has continued to strike what it says are militant targets in all parts of the territory.

Residents reported two Israeli airstrikes overnight in Rafah, the southernmost town along the Egyptian border. An Associated Press reporter saw 27 bodies brought into a local hospital early Thursday.

One woman burst into tears after recognizing the body of her child.

“They were young people, children, displaced, all sitting at home,” Mervat Ashour said as she and others mourned their relatives. “There were no resistance fighters, rockets, or anything.”

New evacuation orders issued as troops pushed into the southern city of Khan Younis earlier this month have pushed U.N.-run shelters to the breaking point and forced people to set up tent camps in even less hospitable areas. Heavy rain and cold recently have compounded their misery, swamping tents and forcing families to crowd around fires to keep warm.

Israel has sealed Gaza off to all but a trickle of humanitarian aid, and U.N. agencies have struggled to distribute it since the offensive expanded to the south because of fighting and road closures.

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