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Israel sees Gaza war lasting at least 7 more months

WorldIsrael sees Gaza war lasting at least 7 more months

Hanegbi reiterated Israel’s position that the near eight-month war in the Palestinian territory is “justified” and “necessary” to preserve national security after the attacks by Hamas militants on October 7, which killed about 1,200 people and abducted 250 others.

Palestinians sit at their house on Wednesday, after it was destroyed in an Israeli strike in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters

The resulting conflict amounts to a battle with Iran, he said, which supports Hamas among other Islamist groups around the Middle East.

“Iran is a superpower that has sent its proxies to surround us in a sort of chokehold, in order to exhaust us,” Hanegbi said. “They know they are not going to conquer Tel Aviv, but they want to break us, they want us to lose our way of life. They want people to stop moving to Israel and want others to leave the country.”

His comments will do little to raise the spirits of mediators from the likes of the US and Qatar, who would like Israel and Hamas to hammer out a ceasefire deal. Talks have been deadlocked for months, with the two sides far apart in their respective demands.

Meanwhile, more than 35,000 Palestinians have died since the war began, according to health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza, while much of the enclave has been devastated by aerial and ground bombardments.

Israel says it has eliminated around 15,000 Hamas fighters during the campaign, but as many as 8,000 remain in the city of Rafah. Israeli tanks entered the centre of the southern Gazan town this week, part of a long-planned incursion.

Hamas’s most senior figures – including its leader, Yahya Sinwar, and his military chief, Mohammed Deif – are at large and fighters have managed to regroup in parts of Gaza that the Israel Defence Forces cleared months ago.

Israeli army tanks are positioned in at Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has never set a timeline for what he calls “total victory”, and Hanegbi said the army always stated 2024 would be a year of fighting, many analysts believe Hamas has been more resilient than the Israeli army expected.

Hamas, designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union, operates in a vast tunnel network that Israeli forces have struggled to destroy and is able to fire rockets into Israel, albeit with far less frequency than in the early days of the conflict.

The war has inflamed the region and led to widespread criticism of Israel. The International Court of Justice published a ruling last week that many countries interpreted as ordering a halt to military activities in Rafah.

And the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as leaders of Hamas.

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