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Peace and Conflict

Netanyahu commits to ground offensive and promises answers | Update 26th October 2023

Netanyahu commits to ground offensive and promises answers via BICom

Netanyahu commits to ground offensive and promises answers

  • The prime minister addressed the nation last night, pledging to deliver on two objectives: to “eliminate Hamas by destroying its military and governing abilities,” and “to do everything possible to bring our captives home.”
  • Netanyahu confirmed that “we are preparing for a ground incursion. I will not detail when, how or how many, or the overall considerations that we are taking into account.”
  • “The timing of the IDF action,” he continued, “will be determined unanimously by the War Cabinet, together with the IDF Chief-of-Staff. Together with the Security Cabinet, we are working to ensure the optimal conditions for our soldiers in the coming actions.”
  • Netanyahu also reiterated Israel’s call for Gazan civilians to move south to the safe zone.
  • “Even amidst the storm of battle,” he continued, “we do not forget for a moment the immense pain of the loss of over 1,400 of our brothers and sisters, who were massacred in cold blood and who heroically fell in battle against the bloodthirsty monsters who have risen up to destroy us. Cutting short their lives is like a hail of arrows at our heart. The soul of the nation is bleeding.”
  • Amid widespread criticism both of the failures in intelligence which were exposed on October 7th and of his own failure to take personal responsibility for them, Netanyahu said “This failure will be investigated thoroughly. Everyone will need to provide answers, myself included, but all of this will happen only after the war.”

In Gaza: The IDF has confirmed that infantry troops conducted a limited ground incursion in the northern Gaza strip last night. In a mission to prepare for the “next stages of the war,” troops, equipped with tanks, targeted terrorists, infrastructure and anti-tank guided missile launch positions. On completion of the mission, troops withdrew to Israel.

  • Israel also continued its aerial attacks on Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip, the IDF confirming that in the last 24 hours it had hit over 250 Hamas targets.
  • Rocket fire from Gaza also continues, 6 people being injured and 12 treated for shock following a heavy missile barrage on central Israel.

In the north: Throughout the day yesterday, there were at least half a dozen incidents of anti-tank missile and rocket fire from Lebanese territory towards civilian and military positions close to the border.

  • The IDF has continued to respond to every act of Hezbollah aggression, targeting the cells responsible for these attacks.
  • Hezbollah has confirmed 44  of its operatives have been confirmed killed since this conflict began.

Context: This was Netanyahu’s first public commitment to a ground offensive.

  • It was aimed at putting an end to the speculation that had suggested disagreements between Netanyahu and the military leadership over a ground operation.
  • Nevertheless, he would not be drawn on timing. The delay is being explained by a number of factors. According to the Wall Street Journal, the delay is due to the US needing more time to deploy additional air defence systems into the region, to protect its own troops.  
  • The US position alludes to the complexity, that this war is not just Israel versus Hamas, but is part of a broader clash against Iran and her proxies. This is evidenced by aggression from Hezbollah, Iranian proxies in Syria and the Houthis in Yemen.
  • In addition, since the October 7 massacre, US forces on the Syrian-Iraq border have also come under attack. There have been reports of around 25 injured US servicemen in a series of rocket and mortar attacks on their base.
  • The second reason for a delay is related to US efforts to broker a hostage release via Qatari mediation. So far, four of the hostages have been released, with at least 220, including 30 babies and children still held hostage.
  • Yesterday Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi posted a message on X, “I’m pleased to say that Qatar is becoming an essential party and stakeholder in the facilitation of humanitarian solutions. Qatar’s diplomatic efforts are crucial at this time.”
  • While not in a formal state of conflict with Israel, Qatar has long played a duplicitous role, leading anti-Israeli hostility and hosting Hamas’s external leadership. Whilst prior to October 7 they provided financial support for Gaza, with the Israeli government’s tacit approval.
  • It is thought Hanegbi, a long-time confidant of Netanyahu, would only release such a statement in concert with the prime minister.       
  • There is speculation that Hamas could distinguish between hostages and agree to release non-Israelis, foreign workers, dual nationals, women, children, elderly people or hostages with health issues.
  • In return, Israel would acquiesce to increasing humanitarian aid into Gaza and even possibly release Palestinian female prisoners or older or ill security prisoners.
  • In Yediot Ahronot, Ronen Bergman questions the prime minister’s assertion, and argues that Israel faces two mutually exclusive options: it can either pursue a deal to bring all the remaining hostages home or proceed with the anticipated ground incursion. “It’s either/or, without any option between them.”
  • Earlier this week, President Biden spoke with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). They confirmed the Gulf Cooperation Council’s contribution of $100 million to support humanitarian relief in Gaza.

Looking ahead: Israel is cooperating with the US effort to deliver more humanitarian aid to the Gazan civilians via Egypt.

  • It is estimated that a ground offensive will begin in the next few day, but the range and extent remain classified.
  • As part of part of President Biden and MbS’s conversation they recognised the importance of the path towards Israeli-Saudi normalisation resuming after the conflict is over. Any deal will now have to include a substantial sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • The Defence Ministry has revealed this morning that evacuations of Israel’s northern and southern border communities will continue until the end of 2023, with some 200,000 Israelis already internally displaced by the threat on both borders.

via BICom