Americans give Israel limited time for their operations in Gaza

As the Israeli army continues to penetrate deeper into Gaza City, international pressure is growing on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government to agree to a ceasefire. But the Israelis have made no secret of their preference to press on, now that they have increasingly cornered Hamas fighters with their much stronger conventional army. Reported from Gaza City both sides heavy fighting on Friday.

Hamas accused Israel of shelling Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza City’s main hospital. Thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge there and in other hospitals due to the Israeli bombings. Israel states that Hamas fighters use hospitals as a shield against Israeli actions. They are also said to have dug into tunnels under Al-Shifa hospital. UN spokesperson Jens Laerke meanwhile called northern Gaza “hell on earth.”

Israel, which on Friday lowered the number of fatalities from the October 7 Hamas attack from about 1,400 to 1,200, wants to continue fighting until all the hostages that Hamas took from the country in that attack are freed. The fighting in Gaza could continue for months or even years, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Thursday. At the beginning of this week, Netanyahu hinted to the American channel ABC that Israel would also remain in the Gaza Strip “indefinitely”. That was a sore point for the US, which sees no benefit in such a new Israeli occupation. Netanyahu, who realizes that he currently lacks American political support, changed his mind. On Fox TV he stated: “We are not looking to conquer Gaza, we are not looking to occupy Gaza and we are not looking to govern Gaza.” He left open what Israel wants to do with the Gaza Strip.

Humanitarian combat breaks

Reluctantly, the Israelis ultimately agreed to the American request for daily four-hour humanitarian combat breaks. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been pushing for this for a week, but Israel initially ignored that suggestion. Such pauses in fighting were announced from Washington on Thursday, although Israel continued to underline that there is no lasting ceasefire.

It has become increasingly clear in recent days that Israel will not have unlimited time to completely decapitate Hamas. were significant the statements of General Charles Q. Brown, the new Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff. When asked whether there is no more chance that Palestinians will be attracted to terrorism as the death toll among civilians continues to rise, Brown responded Thursday with a resounding: “Yes, most definitely.” Therefore, according to Brown, it was better to stop hostilities as quickly as possible. Washington also fears that the war will spread further in the region if the death toll in the Gaza Strip continues to rise. According to the Palestinians, this is more than 11,000.

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Arab states in particular, which developed increasingly warm ties with Israel before October 7, are increasingly pushing for a ceasefire in view of public opinion at home. At a conference with African leaders in Riyadh condemned Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman violence against civilians in Gaza on Friday. “We underline the need to stop this war and the forced displacement of Palestinians,” he said. The emir of Qatar has now called for a truce in Egypt.

The humanitarian need in the Gaza Strip has increased further this week. While citizens had approximately 80 liters of water per person per day before October 7, this has now been reduced to an average of three liters of often undrinkable salt water. Some mothers also prepare baby powder milk with that bad water. Many people only eat one meal a day. Aid is only coming in piecemeal. The Economist calculated that in eighteen days an average of 76 grams of food and 29 milliliters of water had been imported for each Gazan per day. Many countries are providing aid. Participating states a donor conference in Paris promised more than a billion euros for Gaza on Thursday. The Netherlands also previously said it would send a naval ship with relief supplies to Gaza as soon as possible.

Palestinian Authority

The Americans support Israel’s ambition to drive Hamas out of Gaza for good, although the question is whether this will be possible in the short term. Furthermore, last week the US hinted more clearly than before that it would like to see President Abbas’ Palestinian Authority return to the Gaza Strip after the war. However, Abbas will only agree to this if he keeps sight of his own viable Palestinian state. President Biden’s administration is willing to think in the direction of such a two-state solution.

But a viable Palestinian state is the last thing Netanyahu and his far-right coalition partners want. It remains difficult to predict when the guns will remain permanently silent in the Gaza Strip and the surviving Gazans can finally breathe a sigh of relief. But the attitude of the US in particular, which could more than anyone else turn the conflict around, will have given many Palestinians some encouragement this week.