LONDON, December 1. /TASS/. Israel is preparing for a long military campaign against the Palestinian radical movement Hamas as it could last for a year or more, British daily The Financial Times reported on Friday citing its sources.
According to the daily’s sources, the most intensive phase of the Israeli offensive is expected in early 2024. The Israeli military command’s main targets are Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif and Hamas senior official Marwan Issa.
Besides taking out the militants’ military capacities, Israel intends to destroy the system of underground tunnels and the "governing capability" of Hamas in the enclave.
"This will be a very long war…·We’re currently not near halfway to achieving our objectives," one of the sources familiar with the Israeli military plans told FT.
The British daily stressed that the length of the operation will depend on how the fighting goes, international pressure and Israel's ability to free its hostages.
One of the sources noted that unlike the previous wars involving Israel this conflict has no clear-cut ending. "The referee won’t blow the whistle and it’s over," he said.
An unnamed high-ranking Israeli military official told FT that 10 out of 24 Hamas battalions had been "hurt significantly" while 50 mid-level commanders and some 5,000 fighters were killed.
Speaking about the Israeli operation in northern Gaza, another source familiar with the situation said: "Gaza City isn’t finished yet, nor fully conquered. It’s probably 40 per cent done."
Tensions flared up again in the Middle East on October 7 when militants from the Gaza-based Palestinian radical group Hamas staged a surprise incursion into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip.
Hamas described its attack as a response to the aggressive actions of Israeli authorities against the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. In response, Israel has announced a total blockade of the Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, and has begun delivering air strikes on the enclave and certain parts of Lebanon and Syria. Clashes are underway in the West Bank as well.
Hamas announced on November 22 that an agreement on a four-day humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip had been reached through the mediation of Qatar and Egypt. The Gaza ceasefire took effect at 7:00 a.m. local time (5:00 a.m. GMT) on November 24.
The agreement stipulates the release of women and teenagers under the age of 19 who are held in Gaza in exchange for the release of women and teenagers under the age of 19 from Israeli prisons. On November 27, the parties agreed to extend the truce for two more days and on the morning of November 30, it was extended for another day.
On Friday morning, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) accused Hamas of violating the ceasefire and announced the resumption of combat operations in the embattled Gaza Strip.