Status: 29.11.2023, 15:47 PM
By: Nadja Zinsmeister
Israel wants to crush Hamas. But to do so, the military has to move to the south of the Gaza Strip – the stronghold of Hamas and a refuge for millions of people.
Tel Aviv – There seems to be an ominous silence over the Gaza Strip right now. Israel has agreed to a temporary ceasefire to secure the release of 50 hostages. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already stressed that the war against Hamas is not over until the terrorist organization is completely crushed. To do this, the military will have to penetrate into the south of the Gaza Strip - by far the biggest challenge for Israel, according to experts.
Netanyahu Announces Complete Destruction of Hamas - Israel Must Go to the Southern Gaza Strip
After the release of the hostages, "we will continue the fighting," Netanyahu told World TV in an interview. Hamas has committed the worst murders and will do so again, the conservative head of government said. "We have no choice but to destroy Hamas." He had already announced earlier this month that there was no place in the Gaza Strip "that we will not reach."
An Israeli IDF beacon lights up the sky as bombs explode during fighting between Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip and Hamas forces. © Jim Hollander / IMAGO
It is not clear when that time will come. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently campaigning in Israel for an extension of the ceasefire in the war against Hamas. According to him, it is very important for Netanyahu to bring all hostages home. The ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, which has been in force since Friday, has already been extended by two days. According to the current status, however, it expires on Thursday morning.
Israel wants to go to the south of Gaza after ceasefire - where the biggest challenges so far await
If the Israeli government sticks to its goal of crushing Hamas, the military will soon move to the south of the Gaza Strip. But given the humanitarian situation on the ground, international pressure on Israel is growing. According to the US newspaper The Hill, the Biden administration said that it was imperative that the military proceed differently from previous fighting in the north and, for example, set up "zones of defuse". Israel had warned civilians in the north of large-scale bombing and called on them to flee. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip, which is run by Hamas, more than 14,000 people have been killed so far, including thousands of children. The figures cannot be independently confirmed.
The only new refuge in the south is currently a camp in the Al-Mawasi region, a small coastal strip on the Mediterranean Sea. An Israeli army spokesman said on November 17 that civilian supplies were being ensured in the area. But this entails new risks. According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, many Hamas fighters and leaders live in southern cities such as Khan Yunis or Rafah, and others may have fled there since the beginning of the conflict. If Israel's accusation that Hamas is using civilians as shields against the military is true, it could also bring large numbers of Hamas fighters back into the refugee camp.
Experts worried about future fighting in Gaza: Hamas fighters and civilians cavort in the south
Robert Sanders, a professor of national security at the University of New Haven, agrees. Speakingto The Hill, he expressed skepticism about whether Israel would be able to safely separate Hamas and civilians within such a small area. In addition, it is difficult to provide sufficient care for so many people in such a small zone. Israel would have to conduct much more controlled and "infantry-intensive" operations in future attacks in the south. He warned of the airstrikes that bombarded the northern Gaza Strip for weeks before the ground invasion.
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John Hannah, a senior defense fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, is certain that the fighting in the South will be bloody. According to The Hills, the expert doubts that it is feasible to squeeze people into a tiny humanitarian zone, saying that the fighting could become more intense in an urban environment with many civilians. "It's going to be a hell of a fight," Hannah said. "In comparison, the north will look like a walk in the park." (NZ with AFP/dpa)