IDF has begun new, less intensive phase of Gaza war, spokesman says

IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli military has begun a new, less intensive phase in its war against Hamas in Gaza, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari tells The New York Times.

The transition already in place has featured fewer ground troops and airstrikes, he says.

“The war shifted a stage… But the transition will be with no ceremony. It’s not about dramatic announcements,” Hagari says, notably choosing an American news outlet to make the announcement rather than addressing the Israeli public directly in Hebrew.

The comments come hours before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is slated to arrive in Israel, where one of his top agenda items was slated to be discussing the transition to the next phase in fighting and preventing the conflict from spreading — a goal that might have been hampered by the alleged Israeli airstrike in Lebanon earlier today that killed a senior Hezbollah commander.

It’s also unclear whether the lower-intensity fighting in Gaza will mean fewer Gazan deaths as the death count continues to rise by dozens each day.

Hagari tells NYT that the IDF will continue reducing the number of its troops in Gaza, as it began to do earlier this month.

IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari gives a statement on October 17, 2023, saying that the Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad was responsible for a rocket misfire that hit a hospital in the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds. (Screenshot)

The intensity of fighting in the northern Strip in particular has started to ebb as the IDF has shifted toward conducting more targeted raids, instead of more widescale operations, Hagari tells The Times.

The focus will now be on Hamas strongholds in central and southern Gaza, such as Khan Younis and Deir al Balah, Hagari says.

Israel is also aiming to facilitate the delivery of more humanitarian aid into Gaza, including tents to house the nearly two million people who have been displaced from their homes, the IDF spokesman says.

Hagari insists that Israel is not committing genocide, as the International Court of Justice readies to adjudicate on the matter later this week. The military spokesman says the IDF takes precautions to avoid civilian casualties, while Hamas embeds its fighters among civilians and “butchered” over 1,200 people on October 7.

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