Humanitarian crisis worsens in Gaza as Israel-Hamas war intensifies

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A ball of fire rises above a building during an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza, on December 9.
A ball of fire rises above a building during an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza, on December 9. Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said the US has not told Israel any deadline to complete military operations against Hamas in Gaza.

“They understand that they are not in a position to tell the IDF how long it needs in order to achieve the goals. The good thing is that they share the same goals. … It is correct to assume that we cannot measure this in weeks, and I’m not certain that it could be measured in months,” Hanegbi said.

CNN has previously reported that US officials expect Israel’s operation targeting the southern end of the strip to last several weeks before it transitions, possibly by January, to a lower-intensity, hyper-localized strategy that narrowly targets specific Hamas militants and leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials. The White House is deeply concerned about how Israel’s operations will unfold over the next several weeks, a senior US administration official said. The US has warned Israel firmly in “hard” and “direct” conversations, the official said, that the Israeli Defense Forces cannot replicate the kind of devastating tactics it used in the north and must do more to limit civilian casualties.

Hanegbi added that he did not think Hamas leadership had expected the scope of Israel’s response to the attacks on October 7, in which some 1,200 people were killed.  

“I do not think that (Yahya) Sinwar (Hamas’ leader in Gaza) realized that the IDF will actually reach any point they want inside Gaza, (and) kill over 7,000 terrorists,” he said.

“This is the minimal estimate, it could be higher since we don’t know everything,” he added. “We are getting very close to the control and command centers of Hamas in Jabalia and Shejaiya, the strongholds of persistent resistance in the northern Gaza Strip. And in the south, we’re operating fiercely.” 

Earlier, the Israel Defense Forces issued what it called “an urgent appeal” for civilians to leave neighborhoods in the southern city of Khan Younis, as clashes continue in different parts of the strip. 

On the Houthi threat: Hanegbi said Israel is prepared to act against efforts by Houthi rebels in Yemen to disrupt shipping in the Red Sea, if the international community fails to do so.

Hanegbi told Israel’s Channel 12 Saturday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with US President Joe Biden and European leaders about the Houthis targeting merchant ships with alleged Israeli links.

Netanyahu notified them that “Israel is giving the world some time to organize in order to prevent this. But if there isn’t be a global arrangement, because it is a global issue, we will act in order to remove this naval siege,” he said.

CNN reported this week that the US is considering beefing up protections for commercial ships around a vital Red Sea shipping route amid a series of recent missile attacks by the Iran-backed militants, according to military officials.



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