Israel to transition from intense war in Gaza to prolonged special operations: Defence minister to WSJ

Yasmine Osama Farag , Monday 8 Jan 2024

Over three months into the Israeli war on Gaza, Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant said that Israeli forces would be shifting from “intense manoeuvring” to “different types of special operations.”

A convoy of Israeli troops moves in the Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, Thursday, Jan. 2024. AP


In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Gallant signalled a potentially lengthy conflict in Gaza and an enduring shift in Israel’s defence posture.

Gallant, one of three members of Israel’s war cabinet, said that the next chapter in the conflict “will last for a longer time.” He stressed that Israel wouldn’t abandon its goals of destroying Hamas, ending its control of Gaza, and freeing the remaining captives.

“We’re close to the next phase in the north, including Gaza City,” where Israeli troops have largely established control, at least above ground, Gallant said. 

As fighting also intensifies in the south of Gaza, Gallant claimed that the Israeli army needs to take into consideration the huge number of civilians, adding that military tactics would need to adjust. “It will take some time,” Gallant said. “But we aren’t going to give up.”

The brutal Israeli war has thus far killed over 22,000 Palestinians, devastated vast swaths of the Gaza Strip, displaced nearly 85 percent of its population of 2.3 million and left a quarter of its residents facing starvation.

Israeli officials said the shift to lower-intensity operations would be gradual and would happen at different times in different parts of Gaza, according to WSJ.

WSJ also cited Israeli officers saying that the most delicate phase of attacks would likely be around Rafah, a Gaza city on the border with Egypt that is now packed with Gazans displaced by Israeli attacks in the centre and the north.

Gallant said that his other immediate concern is Israel’s northern border, where large numbers of Israeli soldiers have been deployed in case of conflict with Hezbollah. Tens of thousands of Israeli civilians have evacuated from their homes in the north of the country.

“My basic view: We are fighting an axis, not a single enemy,” Gallant said. “Iran is building up military power around Israel to use it.”

“The priority isn’t to get into a war with Hezbollah,” Gallant said. But, “80,000 people need to be able to go back to their homes safely.” If no agreement is negotiated to make that possible, he added, Israel wouldn’t shrink from military action.

“They see what is happening in Gaza. They know we can copy-paste to Beirut,” the Lebanese capital.

Gallant said Hamas’ 7 October operation represented a major failure of deterrence. He noted intelligence indicates that Hamas leaders didn’t expect Israel to mount a large-scale ground operation.

“They didn’t take it seriously, even when we first went in,” he said.

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