Israel's War On Gaza 'Will Last More Than Several Months', Says Defence Minister Yoav Gallant Amid US Pressure

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said the objective of the War on Gaza remains the destruction of Hamas, a group Israel and the United States have designated as a terrorist organisation.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant with Israeli troops.

Amid US pressure to scale down the Israeli War on Gaza, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday said the war "will last more than several months". 

Gallant made the comment to US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who is visiting Israel and is holding talks with top leaders of the country. The visit comes amid US pressure to scale down the Israeli aerial and ground offensives in Gaza and transition to much more focused operations. 

Besides Gallant, Sullivan also held meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his War Cabinet, which also comprises Gallant, former Defence Minister Benny Gantz, former Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer. He is also scheduled to meet Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Friday. 

Gallant told Sullivan that "it is not easy to destroy" Hamas as it has built infrastructure over decades above and underground in Gaza, according to a readout of the meeting from his office. 

"Hamas is a terrorist organisation that built itself over a decade to fight Israel, and they built infrastructure under the ground and above the ground and it is not easy to destroy them. It will require a period of time — it will last more than several months, but we will win and we will destroy them," said Gallant, according to his office.

The comments from Gallant came amid the most definitive criticism from US President Joe Biden, who has so far unequivocally supported Israel since the attack of Hamas on October 7. Earlier this week, Biden said that Israel was losing international support and that Netanyahu has to change the composition of his government —the most right-wing in Israel's history— so that he has room to conduct the war better. 

"Israel's security can rest on the United States, but right now it has more than the United States. It has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world, but they're starting to lose that support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place," said Biden. 

Biden further said that Netanyahu "has to change" the government because it "is making it very difficult for him to move". The hard-right government of Netanyahu has members that are opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state as part of the two-state solution, a proposed resolution to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict to which much of the world ascribes to. 

Israel declared War on Gaza after Hamas mounted the worst-ever attack on Israel on October 7. Around 1,200 Israelis and foreigners were killed, 6,900 were injured, and at least 240 were abducted and taken to Gaza as hostages in the attack, according to the Israeli authorities. Israel soon began carrying out airstrikes in Gaza and also mounted a ground operation later that month. The ground operation was a watered-down version of the full-fledged invasion initially expected. 

While the stated targets of Israeli strikes are Hamas leaders and facilities, widespread Palestinian civilian casualties have also taken place. Hamas-run Gazan authorities said over 18,700 Palestinians have so far been killed in Israeli attacks, most of them women and children, and over 50,800 have been injured. Around 1.9 million Palestinians have been internally displaced and estimates suggest up to a third of all houses have been destroyed or damaged in the attacks. The region is also short of food, fuel, medicines, and other essentials, and is at risk of widespread disease outbreaks. The humanitarian crises in Gaza have led to widespread calls for a ceasefire across the world amid condemnation of Israel and its partners, including the United States which remains its principal backer.

Amid such conditions in Gaza, the United States has been pressing the Israeli leadership to wrap the offensives in Gaza and switch to targeted military operations, including surgical strikes with special forces personnel. Such US pressure comes as Israeli planes carry out airstrikes and ground troops fight intense pitched battles around Gaza City and elsewhere with Hamas personnel. 

In his meetings with the Israeli leaders, Sullivan delivered Biden's message that he would like to see Israel wrap the offensives in Gaza and switch to targeted military operations, including surgical strikes with special forces personnel, according to The New York Times.  

"Though Mr. Sullivan did not specify a precise timetable for the change in the meetings, four American officials said President Biden wants Israel to switch to more the precise tactics in around three weeks, or soon thereafter...Israeli officials signaled no softening in their position after the U.S. discussions, nor did they give any indication they were considering scaling back their military campaign," reported The Times.

Even though there appears to be a rift between the approaches of the United States and Israel, The Times reported that Israel too has a timeline to scale down the offensives, but the timeline is longer than what the United States expects. 

The Times added, "Still, the U.S. efforts come as differences between the United States and Israel have spilled into the open. Mr. Biden said this week that Israel was losing international support because of the “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza, a much harsher assessment than his earlier public statements urging greater care to protect civilians."