It's not just weapon and ammo which are being diverted from Ukraine and now being sent to Israel, but advisory resources, including top-ranking military officers too. Before just two weeks ago, the Pentagon's total focus seemed to be on assisting and advising Kiev, but no longer...
"The Biden administration recently sent a Marine three-star general and several other U.S. military officers to Israel to help advise the Israeli military's leadership in its operation in Gaza, according to two U.S. officials and two Israeli officials briefed on the issue," Axios reports in an exclusive.
Given that among the over 200 hostages held by Hamas, there are American captives, the stakes are high for Washington. The prisoners are said to be scattered around Gaza, and possibly underground in tunnels, making any kind of commando rescue attempt scenario basically impossible.
On Sunday, an Israeli ground unit with bulldozers and a tank briefly went into Gaza, but it resulted in reportedly the tank destroyed and an IDF troop death, with others injured.
Given this level of operational/mission complexity and sensitivity, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Glynn was sent to assist the Israeli military, Axios specified. Previously he had headed all Marine special operations, and ran counter-ISIS missions in the Middle East.
All of this continues to be part of the preparations phase for a major ground assault, which Israeli leaders - both civilian and military - have repeatedly assured is coming. According to more details in Axios:
- Glynn and the other U.S. military officers are not directing operations but they do provide military advice to the IDF about its plans in Gaza. This has been primarily focused on Israel's expected ground invasion. The American officers have shared lessons the U.S. has learned from fighting ISIS in Mosul.
- Glynn is not expected to stay in Israel to follow the IDF ground invasion, sources with direct knowledge of the issue said.
PM Netanyahu has previously warned that the ground offensive will be "long and difficult" - but international pressure has been brought to bear to stall the invasion in order to create a window negotiating freedom for hostages.
In its air operation the IDF has continued touting gains - including taking out Hamas top commanders - as the overall death toll in Gaza has surpassed 5,000 killed:
We guaranteed to eliminate Hamas’ terrorism—and we take our word very seriously.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) October 23, 2023
Israeli Air Force fighter jets carried out an airstrike in order to neutralize Ibrahim Al-Saher—the Head of the Anti-Tank Missiles Array of Hamas' Northern Brigade—this morning.
In 2021, Ibrahim… pic.twitter.com/bxiuPlsL3n
The US Marine general and his accompanying officers will reportedly help IDF leadership "think through" various military scenarios and options.
But as to "pressuring" Netanyahu on holding off the offensive, the White House has sought to distance itself from reports saying that Washington is influencing decision-making:
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby says Israel’s political and military leaders are the ones who will decide how to operate their military campaign in Gaza.
...A senior diplomatic official has told The Times of Israel that the US will refrain from publicly pressuring Israel on its military strategy, while taking a nuanced approach behind closed doors.
By all accounts, there's been a flurry of activity behind closed doors...
AXIOS reports: “Never before have we talked to so many top government officials who, in private, are so worried about so many overseas conflicts at once. We don't like to sound dire. But to sound a siren of clinical, clear-eyed realism: U.S. officials say this confluence of…— David Sacks (@DavidSacks) October 23, 2023
In the north, Lebanese Hezbollah has held off committing itself to a major war with Israel, which could very well happen the moment the IDF mounts a major ground assault into Gaza. Hezbollah's arsenal, with the help of Iran, is far superior to that of Hamas', and is said to include tens of thousands of rockets of varying sizes.
A major 'northern front' war would greatly increase the chances of a broader Iranian conflict with Israel. This would likely draw in the US, an unpredictable and dire scenario which Washington planners are increasingly wary of.