Israel has not even come close to defeating Hamas through its military offensive on the Gaza Strip, US intelligence officials have said. According to the New York Times, the officials told members of Congress earlier this week that while Israel had managed to degrade Hamas’s fighting capabilities, they were still very far from crushing the organization itself.
Officials also said that given the nature of Hamas' military wing as a fundamentally "guerilla" force, defeating the group might not even be possible and that simply weakening their combat strength might be a more realistic goal.
Their comments come despite repeated insistence from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the defeat of the Palestinian group was the ultimate goal of his country's ongoing attack on Gaza.
In a press conference late on Wednesday, Netanyahu vowed to continue Israel's military offensive until "total victory" was secured, saying his country would achieve this "within months".
"We won't settle for less," he said, as he rejected a ceasefire plan proposed by Hamas.
Earlier on Wednesday, several news agencies, including Middle East Eye, said they had seen the Palestinian group's proposed three-stage ceasefire plan.
Among the proposals was for all Israeli women, children under 19, the elderly, and the sick to be released from Gaza during the first 45-day phase in exchange for the release of all Palestinian female, children, sick, and elderly prisoners over 50 years old from Israeli jails.
The Palestinian death toll in four months has risen reportedly to more than 27,900, with over 67,400 wounded and at least 7,000 missing, who are believed to be dead and buried under rubble. Over 70 percent of the victims are children and women, according to health officials.
The air war has also continued...
⚡️Sky over the north moments ago pic.twitter.com/iyxNnY7SZy— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) February 9, 2024
While Netanyahu claimed last month that Israel had killed two-thirds of Hamas' fighting force, American officials say privately that their estimates are considerably lower, saying maybe only a third of Hamas's estimated 20,000 to 25,000 fighters had been killed.
"The closed-door intelligence briefing to members of Congress did not include a discussion of how many Hamas fighters may have been killed, nor did it contain refined estimates of civilian casualties," NYT writes.
"American intelligence officials have refrained from offering specific estimates of how many Hamas fighters have been killed, arguing that such estimates are neither accurate nor meaningful," the report continues.