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Biden Administration Tells Israel Aim to Wrap Up War Against Hamas by January

An IDF soldier in Gaza on Monday, December 4. IDF
An IDF soldier in Gaza on Monday, December 4. IDF

Officials from the Biden administration have marked the start of 2024 as the target date for ending Israel’s massive military campaign against terror group Hamas.

Officials have told their Israeli counterparts that this is not a deadline but a target. According to the administration, Israel is close to exhausting the extensive ground invasion it launched in late October in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacre and should switch to more focused efforts to bring down Hamas.

"The gap between us and the Americans is around three weeks to a month — nothing that cannot be resolved," an Israeli diplomatic source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.

Israel has said throughout the war that, at some point, it would significantly scale down its current Gaza fighting force of armored divisions, hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles, and many thousands of fighters.

Instead, it will mount targeted raids on pockets of Hamas resistance like the tactics it employs in the West Bank against Palestinian terrorists suspected of planning attacks against Israeli forces in the West Bank or Israeli civilians.

In the meantime, Israel has reiterated that its more urgent goals are getting the remaining hostages back and eradicating the terror group to the best of their ability.

"If Secretary Blinken has marked January 1, 2024, as a preferred target date for the beginning of the end of the Gaza operation, Israel wants the end of January as the target date," the source said.

In a discussion between the sides during the secretary of state’s visit to Israel last week, one of the participants mentioned that the January 1, 2024, target is actually January 5, 2024, or even a few days later.

"That leaves three weeks in dispute. There will be no problem bridging it," the source added.

Israel’s ongoing operation has led many in the Biden administration to question its support for the Jewish state."

The Americans don't want to see these scenes of a population that has already been evacuated from north to south, now trying to flee again from south to north, or any points in the east or west," a senior Israeli political source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.

The administration also has grave reservations over the continued Israeli Air Force’s bombings of Hamas-controlled infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. These bombings have resulted in extensive destruction and casualties in recent days despite firm urgings by Blinken and others to avoid mass casualties and razing of buildings.

United States officials have been explaining to their Israeli counterparts that Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians will not be expelled from the enclave and that Israel must enable them to shelter safely from the war.

According to reports, Israeli planners have divided the Gaza Strip into small marked and numbered polygons on a map they have distributed to residents in recent days with instructions to move out of specific polygons once given a warning to do so.

The polygons are supposed to provide the Palestinians with clearly specified safe havens, allowing them to stay out of harm’s way and obtain humanitarian aid.

Israel has also allowed an ever-increasing flow of food, water, and supplies into the Gaza Strip.

While Israel argued the fuel trucks could be used for Hamas’s military operations, the Israeli war cabinet has agreed to US insistence that the level of supplies remain as it was during last week’s humanitarian lull in fighting between the sides.

"Diesel fuel is one of the most significant levers on the Hamas leadership, and when this lever is taken from us, it will require more time, more fighting, and more force," an Israeli military source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.

Following Israel's ground incursion, American troops throughout the Middle East have faced attacks from terrorist proxies backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran on land and at sea.

Despite Washington's warnings, Iranian proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon have vowed to support Hamas’s efforts against Israel, attacking US bases in Iraq and ships in the Persian Gulf.

The Biden administration has responded by launching attacks against various ammunition facilities owned by Iranian-backed proxies but has stopped short of attacking the terrorist groups and the Iranian leadership.

Related Story: Hamas Leader Threatens Israel: Oct. 7 ‘Was Just a Rehearsal’

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