Israel Pounds Southern Gaza As Officials Say 'Long War' Expected For A Year Or More

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Dec 02, 2023 - 01:55 AM

Update(1405ET): All hell has broken loose on the first day of renewed fighting in Gaza post-truce. A UNICEF spokesperson said of the Friday bombardment, "This nightmare for people today just somehow got so much worse." Already, Palestinian sources have said that over 100 have been killed in the last hours of IDF bombing of the Strip. Israeli media is reporting that at least 50 rockets have been launched from Gaza onto southern Israel.

The aerial campaign has even expanded to include the southern half of the Strip, after throughout the early phase of the conflict Gazans were told to abandon their homes in the north and flee south for safety:

Footage verified by Al Jazeera shows numerous plumes of smoke in the sky from Israeli army strikes on Khan Younis. ...Khan Younis in southern Gaza is where thousands of Palestinians have fled from bombing farther north.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli army dropped leaflets on the city, instructing Palestinians there to flee farther south to Rafah.

The White House has said it supports Israel, and has blamed Hamas for the ceasefire's collapse. Israeli officials have explained that Hamas refused to release ten more women captives. Israel says "This violated the terms of the agreement, which specified that Hamas would first release all women and children being held in Gaza in exchange for Israel agreeing to a truce for as long as nine days."

Perhaps the biggest and most ominous development in terms of what the future holds is seen in Israeli officials' words to Financial Times. The Netanyahu is planning for a "long war" which could reach over the next year or more. FT writes in a new report:

Israel is planning a campaign against Hamas that will stretch for a year or more, with the most intensive phase of the ground offensive continuing into early 2024, according to several people familiar with the preparations. The multi-phase strategy envisages Israeli forces, who are garrisoned inside north Gaza, making an imminent push deep into the south of the besieged Palestinian enclave.

The goals include killing the three top Hamas leaders — Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Marwan Issa — while securing “a decisive” military victory against the group’s 24 battalions and underground tunnel network and destroying its “governing capability in Gaza”.

This will be a very long war . . . We’re currently not near halfway to achieving our objectives,” said one person familiar with the Israeli war plans. Israel’s overall strategy for Gaza is flexible, with timing dictated by multiple “clocks”, including operational progress on the ground, international pressure and opportunities to free Israeli hostages, the people said.

We're only eight weeks in, and already there are signs this could easily spark a broader conflict. Another year of the bloodshed certainly opens the likelihood for a Mideast-wide conflagration involving possibly the US, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Yemen's Houthis. 

Blinken's meager "efforts" to achieve continued ceasefire... he packed up and left Israel as IDF warplanes went airborne.

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The Gaza truce has collapsed and Israel has resumed its bombing campaign of the Strip, following a full week of ceasefire and seven rounds of hostage/prisoner exchanges.

Qatar and Egypt were reportedly pressing to extend the temporary pause in fighting for another two days, but Israel was not satisfied with the list of captives offered. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been looking into Hamas claims that the two young Bibas brothers were killed. "Israeli military has informed Bibas family members it is assessing a Hamas claim that the youngest Israeli hostage, 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, his brother Ariel, 4, and their mother Shiri are no longer alive," CNN reports.

This grim and tragic revelation is likely what left Israel with less incentive to keep the ceasefire going, also as pressure has mounted from ultra-conservative circles within Netanyahu's own ruling coalition to take the fight back to Hamas, and to see through the vow of eliminating the terror group. 

Another big factor was Thursday's terror attack involving a pair of Palestinian gunmen who unleashed M16 and pistol fire on a crowd waiting at a Jerusalem bus stop, killing three Israelis and injuring 16. Shortly after the attack, Hamas claimed responsibility.

It's likely that negotiators in Doha are still scrambling to get a ceasefire urgently back in place. After all, Israel says there are still 137 hostages in Hamas captivity, which also includes some Americans. In total 110 were returned home over the past week, with hundreds of Palestinian prisoners released as part of the swap. The Times of Israel details of those who remain captive

Among those still in captivity after the end of the truce Friday are 115 men, 20 women and two children, government spokesperson Eylon Levy says. Ten of the hostages are 75 and older, he says. The majority, or 126, are Israeli and 11 are foreign nationals, including eight from Thailand.

Levy lists the youngest hostage, 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, his 4-year-old brother Ariel and their mother Shiri as among the hostages. The military has said it is investigating a Hamas claim that the boys and their mother were killed.

Dozens of Palestinians have been reported killed after airstrikes started again Friday morning...

Israel and mediators in Qatar were able to secure the release of most of the women and children hostages, as the last days have seen, but still 20 women remain along with the possibly still alive Bibas brothers, fate unknown. Israel as of Thursday welcomed eight more Israelis back from Hamas captivity.

The IDF is meanwhile already dropping leaflets over parts of southern Israel telling civilians to leave their homes and leave the area. Prior to the truce, there were sporadic bombardments of parts of the south. But now it looks like the IDF will take the fight to the southern half too, even after Secretary of State Blinken's urgings not to, conveyed to PM Netanyahu yesterday.

Blinken flew out of Tel Aviv as IDF warplanes began the renewed bombing campaign...

Rockets have resumed being fired from Gaza, and Israel is again evacuating some southern communities, as both sides could once again be settling in for a 'long war'. Rockets could also once again be coming from southern Lebanon. Hezbollah is likely to rejoin the fight. On Thursday Blinken had urged Netanyahu to avoid killing civilians and that the soaring Gaza death toll is increasingly turning world opinion against Israel.