Israel issues ultimatum on Gaza
Israel will not conduct a ground operation in Gaza if Hamas surrenders “unconditionally” and frees all its hostages, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus has said.
If the looming offensive goes ahead, however, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant estimates that it could take up to three months.
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Monday, Conricus dodged a question as to why Israel appears to be delaying its ground operation. Instead, the spokesman simply vowed that the Israeli military would “dismantle Hamas totally” and “bring our people home.”
He explained that Israel would prefer to rely on airstrikes and avoid exposing its troops to danger unnecessarily. He suggested, however, that such an approach may prove insufficient to root out the militant group.
“If Hamas were to come out of their hiding places that they hide underneath the civilians … and return our hostages, all 212 of them, and surrender unconditionally, then the war would end,” Conricus stated.
He concluded that, if the Palestinian militants fail to comply with these conditions, “we will probably have to go in and get it done.”
Meanwhile, speaking at the Israeli Air Force’s headquarters in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant insisted that “this needs to be the last [ground] maneuver in Gaza, for the simple reason that afterwards there will be no Hamas,” as quoted by several Israeli media outlets. He went on to suggest that the offensive might take up to three months.
Since the surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, Israel has called up some 360,000 reservists and amassed considerable forces around Gaza. Its air force has also been pummeling the densely populated enclave with massive strikes. However, a final order to enter Gaza has yet to be issued.
On Friday, US President Joe Biden appeared to confirm that he was urging Israel to delay sending troops into Gaza. However, less than an hour later, White House Communications Director Ben LaBolt claimed the president had misheard the question, and was not attempting to influence Israel’s decision-making.
It came as Bloomberg reported that same day that the US government and some European allies were pushing Israel to postpone its ground attack on Gaza in order to negotiate the release of more hostages held by Hamas.
According to officials on both sides, the latest escalation has left at least 1,400 Israelis and 5,000 Palestinians dead, with thousands more injured.