Israel scaled back Gaza ground campaign after US intervention – NYT
The Israeli military has limited the scope of its “expanded” ground operation against the Palestinian armed group Hamas in Gaza following consultations with senior White House officials, the New York Times reported on Saturday, citing sources.
According to the paper, the initial plans “alarmed” officials in Washington, who voiced concern that they “lacked achievable military objectives,” with fears that the IDF was not yet prepared for a full-scale ground assault.
However, an unnamed US government source told NYT that after discussions with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other officials “the Israelis improved and refined their plan” for the offensive.
As a result, the report said, the IDF’s actions in Gaza have so far been “smaller and more narrowly focused” than Israeli officials initially proposed to their US counterparts. Numerous US officials and former commanders told the outlet that “Israel appeared to be conducting a phased operation” with reconnaissance units probing Hamas positions in Gaza for potential weaknesses.
According to the article, however, Israel’s decision-making process was also influenced by deliberations concerning hostages held by Hamas, as well as by a rift in the country’s leadership over how, when, and even whether to kick off the operation.
Commenting on the progress of the battle, IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Sunday that the country’s military had “expanded the entry” into the Palestinian enclave overnight.
“We are progressing through the stages of the war according to plan,” he said, adding that the IDF is “gradually expanding the ground activity and the scope of our forces” in the area.
Earlier this month, several media outlets reported the US was exerting strong influence on Israel’s plans, with Bloomberg describing it as “deeper and more intense than any exerted by Washington in the past.” Several outlets said the US also wanted the IDF to delay its incursion to gain more time to secure the release of more than 200 hostages held by Hamas.
US President Joe Biden, however, rejected the notion that Washington was pressuring Israel to postpone the ground campaign, saying that “the Israelis can make their own decisions.”
So far, the hostilities have claimed the lives of more than 8,000 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis. After West Jerusalem announced the “complete siege” of Gaza, the UN warned on Wednesday that the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave had reached an “unprecedented point.”