Israeli troops operating in the area of al-Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Israel on January 1 announced plans for a partial withdrawal of its forces from the Gaza Strip over the next few months. The Israel Defense Forces would adapt their tactics towards more targeted operations in the enclave, reducing reliance on artillery and air strikes, it was stated.Israel has transitioned to a new phase in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip – one that is less intensive, involving “fewer troops and air strikes,” Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari told a US outlet.“The war shifted a stage… But the transition will be with no ceremony. It’s not about dramatic announcements,” Hagari stated.Israel hopes to complete the shift from its original sweeping ground and air campaign launched in Gaza to this “targeted” phase of one-off raids by the end of January, US officials have been told by their Israeli counterparts. The transition will ostensibly presuppose use of “surgical missions” inside the enclave carried out by smaller groups of elite forces, particularly around Khan Younis and Deir al Bala which are seen as Hamas’ southern and central strongholds. The goal of such missions would be to seek out Hamas leaders, rescue remaining hostages, and destroy tunnels used by the militants. In a press conference on January 8 Hagari clarified:”There are still terror operatives and weapons in the north of the Gaza Strip, but they do not function within an organized military framework and now we operate there in [a different] way, and with a different mix of forces. At this stage, we are focusing on the center of the Gaza Strip and the south of the Gaza Strip. This is still an intense and complex operational activity.” Hagari also indicated that the fighting in Gaza could be expected to continue throughout 2024.Meanwhile, unnamed US officials told The New York Times that the strength of Israeli troops in northern Gaza had already been slashed to less than half of the approximately 50,000 soldiers deployed there in December.WorldNew Stage of Gaza War: Israel Plans Partial Troop Withdrawal, Targeted Operations1 January, 16:30 GMTAs to the above-cited timeline, it may change depending on the situation on the ground, the report cited Israeli officials as acknowledging. Thus, should Israeli forces come up against stiffer than anticipated Hamas resistance, both the scope and pace of the downscaling of operations could change. Intensive airstrikes could also be continued under those circumstances.With the cited transition and troop reduction already underway, Israeli and US officials are reportedly working on post-war plans of maintaining public order in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli side is allegedly hoping that local mayors, officials and leaders from prominent Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip will step up to the task of overseeing basic security. This local network would also be relied upon to monitor the distribution of humanitarian aid.Other suggested ideas presuppose a peacekeeping force sent by Arab states, or even the ‘unlikely’ one of a multinational force led by the United States, but with Israeli oversight.WorldNetanyahu ‘In Real Trouble,’ IDF Can’t Control Gaza – Analyst03:24 GMTAfter the Israeli military announced on January 1 that it would begin withdrawing several thousand troops from the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials confirmed to US counterparts, in private, that this marked the beginning of the transition phase.Defense Minister Yoav Gallant confirmed Daniel Hagari’s remarks on Monday, telling a US outlet that the IDF was shifting from an “intense maneuvering phase of the war” to “different types of special operations.” He added that Israel needed to “take into consideration the huge number of civilians,” and that the IDF’s tactics “take some time” to adjust.“But we aren’t going to give up,” he said.WorldBlinken Makes Fresh Shuttle Diplomacy Run Amid Gaza Spillover FearsYesterday, 07:31 GMTThe report comes amid growing fears of the Palestine-Israel conflict spreading beyond Gaza, with US top diplomat Antony Blinken on a week-long shuttle diplomacy trip to the region. The Biden administration has largely defended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s military operation in Gaza, which has killed at least 22,835 Palestinians, many of them women and children, according to Gaza’s ministry of health. However, under domestic pressure the White House has been compelled to offer at least rhetorical opposition to relentless Israel’s campaign. The US Secretary of State’s Itinerary lists Turkiye, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, and Egypt from January 4-11. Thus, Blinken, who a week ago insisted that America’s decision to supply munitions worth around $147.5 million to Israel was in the US’ national interest, would “underscore the importance of protecting civilian lives in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.”WorldUNGA to Hold Plenary Meeting Tuesday Due to US Blocking Russian Amendment in UNSCYesterday, 22:43 GMT