After a seven-day ceasefire involving release of 100 Israeli hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners, #Israel has resumed offensive, expanding the operations to central #Gaza, particularly Khan Younis, the second largest town and a key Hamas stronghold.

Nearly 1.9 million or two-thirds of the population of #Gaza has been displaced. According to Hamas sources, 16,248 people (including 7,112 children & 4,885 women) have been killed in Gaza since 07 Oct, and 43,616 injured. In Gaza, 250 health workers, 130 UN staff & 77 media personnel & journalists have been killed. In West Bank, 250 Palestinians have been killed. According to Institute for Study of War (ISW), Hamas fighters are using sophisticated tactics including IEDS, anti-personnel mines & explosives place in sub-terranean tunnels. Hezbollah’s sporadic attacks in the north continue.

On 07 Oct, in the surprise Hamas attack, nearly 1,200 Israelis were killed & 240 taken hostages (>100 have been released). In retaliation, Israel launched three weeks of intense aerial bombardment, followed by ground invasion seizing large parts of North Gaza. As per IDF sources, 10 of 24 battalions of Hamas have been significantly degraded, >50 mid-level commanders & 5,000 Hamas fighters killed. 85 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza.

FT quoting sources said Israel’s campaign against Hamas may stretch for a year or more, with the most intensive phase of ground operations set to continue into early 2024. The multi-phase strategy envisages Israeli forces in North Gaza making a push deep into south focusing on Khan Younis & Rafa crossing –  the lifeline for humanitarian aid. Rafa crossing & underground smuggling tunnels on Egypt-Gaza border could also be the lifeline for Hamas rebuilding its capabilities.

Israel’s goals include killing three #Hamas top leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif & Marwan Issa and a decisive victory against Hamas, including destruction of infrastructure & governing capability in Gaza.

The renewed high intensity ground operations may continue for few months. A transition & stabilisation phase of lower military intensity could follow & continue into late 2024 – to prepare Gaza for a new post-war order without Hamas.

Netanyahu said Gaza will have to be demilitarised after the war. He indicated IDF will retain control over Gaza after the war ends. It may be at variance with the US position that there can be no loss of territory in Gaza or any Israeli occupation of the land after the war.

The UNGA, Qatar & Saudi Arabia have renewed calls for “long-term ceasefire.” The US has urged Israel to have a smaller military footprint in the south, fewer civilian casualties, a clear humanitarian plan and civilian areas remaining safe.

“Israel’s overall strategy would be flexible and depend on operational progress, international pressure & opportunities to secure release of hostages, as per FT.

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