Report: IDF chief worried Gaza battle gains will erode without a ‘day after’ strategy

Halevi said to tell Netanyahu and Gallant army may need to return to previously conquered areas, with no plans in place as fighting winds down

Israeli soldiers take positions near the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel, December 11, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Israeli soldiers take positions near the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel, December 11, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Military chief Herzi Halevi has warned Israel’s leaders that gains made over three-plus months of fighting in Gaza could be squandered due to the lack of a plan for postwar management and security of the enclave, according to a report Monday.

The alleged comments by Halevi in recent weeks were reflective of consternation among military analysts and others regarding the lack of preparation for a so-called “day after” in Gaza, as Israel winds down the intensive phase of its military campaign against the Hamas terror group, which has ruled the enclave since 2007 and which, though weakened, remains in power.

“We are facing the erosion of gains made thus far in the war because no strategy has been put together for the day after,” Channel 13 news cited Halevi as saying in private conversations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and others.

Halevi also warned that the Israel Defense Forces “may need to go back and operate in areas where we have already concluded the fighting,” according to the channel.

Attempts by the government to convene ministers for conversations on managing the Strip and keeping Hamas out of power as the military pulls back have been hampered by infighting within the security cabinet and issues regarding the timing of the meetings.

Gallant said Monday that the “intensive phase” of Israel’s ground offensive in northern Gaza has ended, and would soon be over in the Khan Younis area of the Strip’s south as well.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center) meets with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi (right) and other defense officials during an assessment, December 22, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

But he also warned that “political indecision” regarding the future of Gaza “may harm the progress of the military operation.”

“The future government in Gaza must grow from the Gaza Strip. Gaza will be ruled by Palestinians. The end of the military campaign must be anchored in policy,” he said.

Troops have been carrying out operations at a lower intensity in northern Gaza for the past several weeks, after the military said it had defeated all of Hamas’s battalions in the area. The soldiers have been working to locate the remaining Hamas sites and kill or capture the terror group’s last operatives.

According to Channel 13 news, unnamed defense figures fear that Hamas could regroup in areas once the IDF pulls out, without an effective solution to fill the power vacuum.

IDF forces operating in the Gaza Strip in images released on January 16, 2024 (IDF)

“The way we want to finish this needs to be decided on,” one unnamed source was quoted saying by the network. “The current achievements of the war are dissipating. A civilian element will be needed.”

The military campaign is winding down even as many Hamas battalions remain intact and most of its top leadership still at large.

Israel has consistently vowed that it will not reoccupy the enclave, but has also maintained that it will likely need to keep some security presence for pinpoint operations, to keep Hamas from rebuilding the capabilities that allowed it to carry out its October 7 massacre in southern Israel.

The IDF has assessed that fighting in Gaza will likely last throughout all of 2024, as Israel works to strip Hamas of its military and governing capabilities. It has also vowed to continue fighting until all remaining hostages are released from captivity.

“I would like to reiterate, at the end of the war, there will be no military threat from Gaza. Hamas will not be able to control and function as a military force in the Gaza Strip, and the IDF will have full freedom of action to do whatever is required to defend the citizens of Israel,” Gallant said Monday. “It may take a long time, but it will end with a single scenario, total victory.”

War erupted between Israel and Hamas with the terror group’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages of all ages — mostly civilians.

Vowing to destroy the terror group, Israel launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza, which the Hamas-run health ministry has said killed over 24,000 people since. The figure cannot be independently verified, and is believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 9,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on and immediately after October 7.

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