Israel describes Gaza City as the “center of gravity” of Hamas’s operations
Israel Says Its Forces Have Entered ‘Heart’ of Gaza’s Main City
Israel said its troops have entered the middle of Gaza’s main city as they continue their offensive against Hamas، while the top US diplomat signaled there will probably be a post-conflict “transition period” before it’s clear who takes control of the territory.
“IDF forces are in the heart of Gaza City،” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said late Tuesday، referring to the Israel Defense Forces. “They came from the north and the south. They stormed it in full coordination between land، air and sea forces.”
Israel describes Gaza City as the “center of gravity” of Hamas’s operations. The government is determined to end the militant group’s rule over the strip following its attack on southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7، which killed around 1،400 people.
Starting a ground assault
The Israeli military has bombarded Gaza since then and started a ground assault just over 10 days ago، using tanks and armored vehicles to support infantry troops. It’s focusing the incursion mainly on the north of the Mediterranean enclave، where Gaza City is located، and has urged Palestinian civilians to evacuate to the south.
The United Nations says the humanitarian situation in the densely-packed Gaza Strip is dire، with its roughly 2 million inhabitants needing much more food and medicine. Israel، which put the territory under an almost-total blockade once the war began، has said more aid has been going in from Egypt in the past week. But the UN says the quantities are nowhere near enough.
Israel has resisted pressure، including from the US and Arab nations، to restrain its operations، which the Hamas-run Health Ministry says have killed more than 10،000 people in Gaza.
US President Joe Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a call on Monday to agree to a three-day pause in the fighting to facilitate hostage negotiations with Hamas، Axios reported، citing unnamed American and Israeli officials.
Hamas and other groups abducted around 240 people during the Oct. 7 attack. Israel has said anything other than a short pause in fighting would allow Hamas to regroup.
The IDF has announced the deaths of around 30 soldiers in Gaza since the ground offensive started.
Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union. It’s received extensive training and funding from Iran and continues to fire rockets and missiles into Israel daily.
Israel’s goal in the coming days is to take control of the “important part” of Gaza City، including its biggest hospital of Al-Shifa، according to a former deputy head of the National Security Council، Itamar Yaar.
Israel says Hamas’s main military headquarters is located underground near Al-Shifa. It’s warned the hospital to evacuate patients، said Yaar.
“It’s only a matter of time until the Israeli forces take control of that site،” Yaar told reporters. “To take control of these sites doesn’t mean to destroy it.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke about Gaza’s future on Wednesday.
“Gaza cannot continue to be run by Hamas — that simply invites a repetition of October 7،” Blinken said in Tokyo while at a Group of Seven meeting for foreign ministers. “The reality is that there may be a need for some transition period at the end of the conflict، but it is imperative that the Palestinian people be central to governance in Gaza.”
He added there must be “no reduction in the territory of Gaza.” Israel has suggested there will be a buffer zone inside Gaza to prevent anyone approaching the border in future.
The most likely scenario is for an “international force” led by Arab nations to initially run Gaza once fighting ends، according to Yaar، the former member of Israel’s National Security Council. There will be a “gap period” before they hand over to a Palestinian entity that’s in charge of both the West Bank and Gaza، he said.
Both stages will be “complicated” and it’ll be difficult to convince any Arab government to run Gaza، he said. “But it’s the only option other than Israeli occupation.”
The Palestinian Authority، which rules Palestinians in the West Bank، says the future of Gaza’s governance shouldn’t be discussed until there’s a ceasefire. But PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said the organization will “bear our full responsibilities” for the territory when the time comes for political negotiations.