Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday laid out Israel’s objectives in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, saying that after the terror group has been destroyed, there will be a new “security reality” in the territory.
Speaking at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in Tel Aviv, Gallant said the war’s objectives include eliminating Hamas by destroying its military and governmental capabilities.
Additionally, an ultimate aim is to remove any responsibility Israel has over Gaza by creating a new “security regime” in the Strip.
Gallant told the committee members that the war will have three main phases.
“We are in the first phase, in which a military campaign is taking place with [airstrikes] and later with a [ground] maneuver with the purpose of destroying operatives and damaging infrastructure in order to defeat and destroy Hamas,” Gallant said.
He said the second phase will be continued fighting but at a lower intensity as troops work to “eliminate pockets of resistance.”
“The third step will be the creation of a new security regime in the Gaza Strip, the removal of Israel’s responsibility for day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip, and the creation of a new security reality for the citizens of Israel and the residents of the [area surrounding Gaza],” he said.
Recent days have seen growing pressure on the government to devise a clear strategy for how it plans to avoid getting bogged down in a lengthy reoccupation of the Strip, while ensuring the Palestinian enclave is no longer managed by the Hamas terror group and no longer poses a threat.
National Unity party leader Benny Gantz and fellow party member Gadi Eisenkot, who entered the coalition last week to form an emergency wartime cabinet, have demanded the creation of a Gaza exit strategy and have tasked a committee with drawing one up, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel earlier this week.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has also been privately pressing Israel to flesh out its exit strategy, Israeli and US officials have said.
Netanyahu and his inner circle indicated to their American counterparts that Israel had not yet come up with such a strategy and is more focused on the immediate goal of removing Hamas from power in Gaza, a US official said.
On Wednesday, Biden cautioned Israel against getting bogged down in Gaza indefinitely, drawing on the US’s experiences in Afghanistan following its 2001 invasion to topple the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
“Justice must be done,” Biden said in Tel Aviv. “But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it… After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. While we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.”
Betraying an unease with the possibility that Israel’s campaign against Hamas could get derailed by civilian losses, Biden warned that wartime leadership “requires clarity about the objectives and an honest assessment about whether the path you’re on will achieve those objectives.”
War erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 2,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,400 people and seizing 200-250 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly.
At the same time, there have been growing exchanges of fire and rocket attacks on the Lebanon border with Iran-backed Hezbollah and Palestinian terror groups there, compounding fears that Hezbollah could open a new war front, which it and Tehran have threatened will happen if Israel enters Gaza.