Israel defense minister unveils strategic shift in Gaza war plans

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday outlined Israel’s plans for the next stage of its war in Gaza, with a new more targeted approach in the northern section of the enclave and a continuing pursuit of Hamas leaders in the south.

The announcement came as Israel continued drawing down its forces in Gaza to allow thousands of reservists to return to their jobs after growing international pressure to shift to less intense combat operations.

“In the northern region of the Gaza strip, we will transition to a new combat approach in accordance with military achievements on the ground,” Gallant’s office said in a statement it said outlined the guiding principles reflecting Gallant’s vision for the next phases of the war.

He said operations would include raids, demolishing tunnels, air and ground strikes, and special forces operations.

In the south of the besieged enclave, where most of Gaza’s 2.3 million population is now living, many in tents and other temporary shelters, the operation would continue to try to eliminate Hamas leaders and rescue Israeli hostages.

“It will continue for as long as is deemed necessary,” the statement said.

After the war, Gallant said Hamas would no longer control Gaza and Israel would reserve its operational freedom of action. But he said there would be no Israeli civilian presence and Palestinian bodies would be in charge of the enclave.

“Gaza residents are Palestinian, therefore Palestinian bodies will be in charge, with the condition that there will be no hostile actions or threats against the State of Israel.”

Israel launched its offensive in Gaza following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas gunmen who killed some 1,200 people in communities near Gaza and took around 240 into captivity as hostages, according to Israeli estimates.

Israel’s offensive has killed more than 22,000 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, forced most of the population out of their homes and reduced much of Gaza to rubble.

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