Gaza war to take ‘months’, Israel tells White House

Jake Sullivan and Yoav Gallant
Image caption,Yoav Gallant warned that Israeli operations in Gaza will ‘require a period of time’

By Bernd Debusmann Jr

BBC News, Washington

Israel’s war in Gaza may take “more than several months”, the country’s defence minister has told US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Mr Sullivan arrived in Israel earlier on Thursday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials.

Earlier this week, Joe Biden said Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza was costing it support globally.

The UN this week warned of a dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

During a meeting with Mr Sullivan on Thursday, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said that “Hamas is a terrorist organisation that built itself over a decade to fight Israel”.

“They built infrastructure under the ground and above the ground and it is not easy to destroy them,” Mr Gallant said. “It will require a period of time – it will last more than several months, but we will win and we will destroy them.”

While the US has repeatedly pledged its support to Israel and sent billions of dollars worth of military aid, alarm is growing over the mounting civilian death toll of the war.

President Biden is also facing increasing domestic calls – including some from within his own party – to do more to pressure Israel to exercise restraint during operations in Gaza.

In a brief speech on Thursday, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that US credibility is “on the line”, as is the “credibility of our commitment to human rights” as a result of the Gaza conflict and a perception that Palestinian human rights are “conditional”.

“We cannot allow ourselves to set that precedent,” she said. “There is a human cost that is too high and we have reached it. That’s why we must join together and call for a ceasefire now.”

Mr Sullivan’s visit to Israel comes just days after Mr Biden said that Israel was “starting to lose” international support because of the “indiscriminate bombing that takes place” in Gaza.

On the same day, Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a statement that Israel had “the full backing” of the US, which had blocked “international pressure to stop the war”.

Citing two unnamed US officials, CBS – the BBC’s US partner – has reported that Israeli officials have told the US that the current phase of military operations would last two or three more weeks, but would be followed by a prolonged campaign of targeted strikes aimed at Hamas leadership targets.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has said more than 18,400 people have been killed by Israeli bombing since 7 October, when a Hamas attack into Israel left about 1,200 people dead.

At a news conference in Geneva on Thursday, the head of the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said that conditions were becoming increasingly difficult, both for Palestinian civilians in Gaza and those who have successfully crossed into Egypt.

“We meet more and more people who haven’t eaten for one, two, or three days,” he said.

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