Israel’s top general said that it would take months to destroy Hamas‘s military capabilities, as Israel reshuffled its ground forces in the strip.
Israel began preparations for prolonged fighting in the Gaza Strip, reshuffling forces as it weighs how to sustain lower-intensity fighting over the long term.
Israel’s top general said that it would take at least several more months to destroy Hamas’s military capabilities in the enclave, which have been severely damaged but not eliminated by the Israeli offensive that began on October 7.
On Monday, Israel said it would adjust its ground-force composition in Gaza, with plans to rotate five brigades—estimated to be thousands of troops—out of the Gaza Strip this week, some of which might be replaced.
The move comes as Israel enters the 85th day of its war against Gaza’s ruling Hamas Islamists, which has killed more than 20,000 Palestinians, and caused widespread destruction and suffering in the strip, as well as in Israel.
Stalled Peace Talks
The war has also stalled and complicated the diplomatic efforts to end the violence and to resume the peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Israel’s Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said on Sunday that the war in Gaza was not over yet, and that Israel would continue to strike Hamas and other militant groups in the strip, until they were completely neutralized and deterred.
Halevi said that Israel had achieved significant and unprecedented results in the war, destroying more than 20,000 rockets, hundreds of tunnels, dozens of command centers, and hundreds of militants, including senior leaders and commanders.
Halevi also said that Israel had inflicted a heavy blow to Hamas’s morale and legitimacy, and that it had exposed and isolated Hamas from the Palestinian people and the international community.
However, Halevi also admitted that Hamas still had some residual capabilities and resources, and that it could still pose a threat and a challenge to Israel, especially if it managed to rearm and rebuild its infrastructure.
Halevi said that Israel would not allow Hamas to do so, and that it would monitor and prevent any attempts by Hamas to smuggle weapons or materials into the strip, through the land, sea, or air.
Halevi said that Israel would also maintain its pressure and presence in the strip, and that it would adjust and optimize its ground forces, according to the operational needs and the security situation.
Halevi said that Israel would rotate five of its brigades out of the strip this week, after they completed their missions and objectives. He said that some of them might be replaced by other brigades, while others might not, depending on the assessment and the evaluation of the commanders on the ground.
He said that the rotation was part of a routine and planned process, and that it did not indicate a withdrawal or a reduction of the Israeli forces in the strip.
He said that Israel’s conditions for a ceasefire were: the complete cessation of the rocket fire and the attacks from Gaza, the release of the Israeli captives and the remains of the Israeli soldiers held by Hamas, and the guarantee of a long-term and sustainable calm and stability in the region.
He said that Israel’s principles for a political solution were: the recognition of Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself, the rejection of Hamas’s ideology and agenda, and the support of the two-state solution, based on the 1967 borders and the mutual recognition.
He also said that Israel hoped and expected that the war in Gaza would lead to a positive and constructive change in the region, and that it would create the conditions and the opportunities for a lasting and comprehensive peace and security for all the parties and the peoples involved.