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9 Jan, 2024 07:00

IDF announces Gaza operation ‘shift’

A senior Israeli military spokesman says the conflict will soon enter a new stage
IDF announces Gaza operation ‘shift’

Israel’s military has said it will transition to a less intensive phase in its war against Hamas, suggesting it will rely on more surgical missions following months of heavy fighting in Gaza.

The chief spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, announced the change on Monday, telling the New York Times that smaller groups of soldiers will carry out more one-off raids, as opposed to the wide-scale maneuvers seen in the earlier stages of the war in the Palestinian enclave.

“The war shifted a stage,” Hagari told the NYT, adding, “the transition will be with no ceremony. It’s not about dramatic announcements.”

Though IDF operations previously focused on Gaza’s north, they will continue to move south, around cities such as Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah, the admiral said. He noted that he expects additional humanitarian aid to enter the besieged territory, where rights groups and international organizations, including the UN, have warned of grave shortages in essential goods such as food, fuel, and medicine.

During a regular press conference later on Monday, Hagari elaborated that though there were still “terror operatives and weapons” in northern Gaza, they did not “function within an organized military framework and now we operate there in [a different] way, and with a different mix of forces.”

According to unnamed US officials cited by the New York Times, Israel has slashed the number of troops in northern Gaza by more than half of the 50,000 previously stationed there. Other administration staffers also told the paper that the transition period should end by late January, citing private discussions between American and Israeli officials.

Israel’s defense chief, Yoav Gallant, made a similar announcement, telling the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that the IDF would shift from the “intense maneuvering phase of the war” to “different types of special operations.” However, he later clarified that the change would happen soon, and had not already taken place.

“We need to take into consideration the huge number of civilians,” Gallant told the Journal, adding that that change would “take some time” to implement.

The latest conflict in Gaza erupted following Hamas’ deadly October 7 terrorist attack on Israel, which killed around 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and saw at least 240 captured by Palestinian militants. The IDF responded with months of heavy airstrikes and a major ground incursion, leaving much of the enclave in ruins and killing more than 23,000 people, according to local health officials. An estimated 2 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes due to the fighting.

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