Top US official says not 'right' for Israel to occupy Gaza long-term

AFP , Friday 15 Dec 2023

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Friday it is not appropriate for Israel to occupy Gaza in the long-term, as speculation mounts over the post-war future of the territory.

A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip following Israeli bombardment on December 15, 2023. AFP


"We do not believe that it makes sense for Israel, or is right for Israel, to occupy Gaza, reoccupy Gaza over the long term," Sullivan told journalists in Tel Aviv.

"Ultimately the control of Gaza, the administration of Gaza and the security of Gaza has to transition to the Palestinians," he said following meetings with senior Israeli officials.

The United States is a key military backer of Israel's war on the strip, which has killed nearly 19,000 people, the majority women and children, and internally displaced 1.9 million (80 percent of the strip's population).

The US and Israel concur that the war (in Gaza) will last months more, Sullivan said, while there are "intensive discussions" about future stages and the aftermath.

"There will be a transition to another phase of this war, one that is focused in more precise ways on targeting the (Hamas) leadership and on intelligence-driven operations" against the militant group, Sullivan said without giving a timeframe.

Separately, a senior US administration official said Washington and Israel have discussed a "shift in emphasis" from widescale bombardment to "narrow surgical military" action.

The latter would focus on "high-value targets, specific military infrastructure," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Washington's latest diplomatic move will see Sullivan travel Friday to the occupied West Bank, where he is due to meet the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmud Abbas.

The US has suggested the internationally-recognised PA could play a role in governing Gaza after the war, though the Ramallah-based administration is deeply unpopular among Palestinians.

"We do believe that the Palestinian Authority needs to be revamped and revitalised, needs to be updated in terms of its method of governance, its representation of the Palestinian people," Sullivan said.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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