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White House discussed shift to 'lower intensity operations' with Israeli officials

The White House has discussed with Israeli officials the possibility of ratcheting down the intensity of fighting in Gaza in the “near future,” a spokesperson said Thursday, even as Israel’s defense minister suggested the war would go on for months.

John Kirby, a White House spokesperson on national security issues, told reporters that national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with Israeli leaders about “progress in the war and where the Israelis think it’s going to go” during a visit Thursday to Tel Aviv.

“He did talk about possibly transitioning from what we would call high-intensity operations, which is what we’re seeing them do now, to lower-intensity operations sometime, you know, in the near future,” Kirby said. “But I don’t want to put a time stamp on it. I think you can understand the last thing we’d want to do is telegraph to Hamas what they’re likely to face in coming weeks and months.”

The New York Times reported, citing four U.S. officials, that the Biden administration has relayed that it would like to see Israel conclude its large-scale ground campaign in Gaza around the end of the year and transition to a more targeted strategy.

The White House’s push for a shift in strategy comes even as Israeli officials indicate their war against Hamas in the wake of the group’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks is not close to concluding.

Before a meeting with Sullivan, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the battle against the terrorist group “will last more than several months.”

“It will require a long period of time — it will last more than several months, but we will win and we will destroy them,” Gallant said.

Israel has carried out airstrikes and military operations in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks that left roughly 1,200 Israelis dead. Thousands of Palestinians have died in the subsequent strikes by Israel.

The White House has been steadfast in its support of Israel, providing additional resources and arguing the country has a right to defend itself against Hamas. But Biden administration officials have also in recent days expressed concerns about the civilian toll in Gaza, with President Biden warning Israel could lose international support because of the “indiscriminate bombing that takes place.”

At the same time, the White House has rejected calls from some progressives and activists for a cease-fire in Gaza, arguing a full stop in fighting would allow Hamas to regroup and potentially plot another attack. Kirby on Thursday suggested the fighting could end if Hamas agreed to lay down their weapons, turn over those responsible for the Oct. 7 attacks and release all hostages.

Source: The Hill

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