Israel-Gaza war will continue for months, IDF chief warns

Israeli soldiers in Gaza, 26 December
Image caption,Israel insists there will be no peace until Hamas is destroyed

By Henri Astier

BBC News

Israel’s war with Hamas militants in Gaza will continue for “many more months”, Israel’s army chief has said.

“There are no magic solutions,” Herzi Halevi told reporters. On Monday PM Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the campaign was “not close to being over”.

Israel says it hit more than 100 sites on Tuesday. It is reportedly extending ground operations to central Gaza.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says 20,915 Palestinians have been killed in more than 11 weeks of fighting.

The war began on 7 October after Hamas led a wave of deadly attacks on communities inside Israel. About 1.9 million have been internally displaced by Israeli bombardments since then, the UN says.

Juliette Touma, a spokeswoman for the UN Palestinian refugee agency (Unwra) told the BBC: “We’re seeing very worrying reports of hunger and starvation in some places, and meanwhile the war continues, the displacement continues and UN shelters are overcrowded and overwhelmed.”

Palestinians flee their homes in the central Gaza Strip, 26 December
Image caption,About 85% of Gaza’s population has been displaced, the UN says

Last week US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on Israel to lower the intensity of its strikes to limit “harm done to civilians”.

On Tuesday Herzi Halevi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), told a news conference that the war would “continue for many more months” to ensure that “our achievements are preserved for a long time”.

“There are no shortcuts when it comes to thoroughly dismantling a terrorist organisation except being stubborn and determined in the fighting,” he added.

The IDF says Tuesday’s air strikes hit 100 targets from Jabaliya in northern Gaza to Khan Yunis and Rafah in the south.

There are also reports that it launched a ground offensive in refugee camps in central Gaza after ordering residents to evacuate.

Internet and telephone services were again cut across the Gaza Strip.

Some 1,200 people, mainly civilians, were killed in the 7 October attacks. About 240 people were taken back to Gaza as hostages. Israel says 132 are still being held.

On Monday Mr Netanyahu told parliament: “We will not be able to release all the abductees without military pressure… we will not stop fighting.” caption,

A strike killed at least 70 people in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp at the weekend, Hamas says

Israeli and Arab media say that Egypt has proposed a plan for a ceasefire.

According to reports, the plan would see the phased release of all Israeli hostages and an undetermined number of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, ending with a suspension of Israel’s offensive.

A previous temporary truce deal negotiated by Qatar saw dozens of hostages released from Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. So far, both Israel and Hamas have resisted calls for a lasting ceasefire.

Meanwhile Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer is Washington for talks with Mr Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

The talks will focus on “matters related to the conflict in Gaza and the return of hostages held by Hamas”, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

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