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Israeli official says Gaza offensive to continue until at least the end of the year

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Israel’s national security adviser said on Wednesday that the military operation in Gaza is expected to continue until at least the end of the year, appearing to deny suggestions that the war could end after the military offensive against Hamas in Rafah.

“We expect another seven months of fighting to consolidate our gains and achieve what we call the destruction of the military and governing capacity of Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in an interview with Israeli public broadcaster Kan.

The Israeli military also said on Wednesday that it had captured Buffer zone Israel set up border controls on Gaza’s southern edge to prevent cross-border smuggling with Egypt, allowing Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups to rearm. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said control of the corridor is vital to Israel’s security in post-war Gaza.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the area was “Hamas’ oxygen pipeline” and that the Palestinian militant group had used it to “regularly smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip.” Hamas also built tunnels near the Egyptian border, believing Israel would not dare launch an attack so close to Egyptian territory, he said.

In recent months, Israeli defense officials have told the public that the Gaza campaign will be a protracted war, even though the fighting will gradually decrease in intensity in phases.

However, Hanegbi’s assessment that the military operation will continue for at least another seven months appears to contradict Netanyahu’s previous prediction that Israel was “on the verge of victory” in its war with Hamas.

On Tuesday, the Israeli military said it was sending an undisclosed number of additional troops to Rafah, where soldiers are engaged in close combat with Hamas. Israeli officials have called the operation there “limited and localized,” but satellite images of troop movements and residents reporting increased bombardment suggest the operation is larger.

Israel faces International pressure mounts end its operations and reach a ceasefire with Hamas, which includes the release of hostages held in Gaza. The ICC chief prosecutor has requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israel’s defense minister; the ICC has ordered the country to curb its offensive in Rafah; the Biden administration has expressed frustration with Israel’s lack of a clear post-war Gaza plan.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, speaking on Wednesday during a visit to Moldova, urged Israel to present a post-war vision for Gaza.

Without a plan, Blinken said, “Hamas will take power, and that is unacceptable. Otherwise, we will have chaos, lawlessness and a vacuum.”

Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip on Sunday caused a fire at a shelter for displaced Palestinians, as protests over the humanitarian crisis and loss of life in Gaza have intensified in recent days. At least 45 people were killed The fire broke out in western Rafah, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The Israeli military said the airstrike targeted two Hamas commanders and was investigating the cause of the fire.

According to Gaza health officials, a total of 36,000 Palestinians have been killed since the Hamas-led surprise attack on Israel began on October 7. According to Israeli authorities, about 1,200 people were killed in Israel during the attack, most of them civilians. Israeli authorities also said that Palestinian militants took about 250 people back to Gaza as hostages.

Civilian casualties in and around Rafah were heavy, and according to the United Nations, more than a million Gazans fled the city as a result of the attacks.

Aid workers say the offensive has stretched medical and humanitarian services to the limit, with only one hospital still functioning and some relief operations forced to move to other parts of the Strip.

Ongoing clashes and attacks have killed dozens of civilians and closed emergency clinics and other services, further exacerbating the city’s healthcare crisis.

The aid operations closed this week include a field hospital run by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, a clinic supported by Doctors Without Borders, and World Central KitchenThe company resumed operations in late April, weeks after seven of its workers were killed in an Israeli raid that the military admitted was a “serious mistake”.

“As Israel’s assault on Rafah intensifies, the unpredictable trickle of aid into Gaza creates an illusion of improved access when in reality the humanitarian response is on the verge of collapse,” 19 aid groups said in a statement. Joint Statement Tuesday.

Israel says the Rafah operation is crucial to eliminating Hamas forces in the city and securing its border with Egypt.

An Israeli military official briefing reporters on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations, said troops had discovered at least 20 tunnels from Gaza to Egypt, some of which were discovered recently.

But briefing reporters late Wednesday, Admiral Hajari stopped short of claiming the tunnels crossed the border.

“I cannot say now that all these tunnels lead to Egypt,” he said. “We will check and pass on the intelligence” to Egypt. He added that Gaza’s tunnel shafts “are located near the Egyptian border, including inside buildings and homes.” “We will investigate and deal with every single one of them.”

Following Israel’s announcement, Egypt’s state-run al-Qaeda news channel quoted an unnamed senior official as saying that claims of tunnels along the border were “baseless.”

“These lies reflect the severity of the crisis facing the Israeli government,” the official said, adding that “Israel continues to try to spread lies about the situation on the ground of its troops in Rafah in order to cover up its military failures and find a way out of its political crisis.”

The 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt strictly dictated how many troops each country could deploy in a series of areas, including the Philadelphia Corridor, in an attempt to create a buffer zone between the two sides.

Egypt has Before The Israeli occupation of the border corridor would pose a “serious threat to Egyptian-Israeli relations,” the ministry warned. An Egyptian soldier was killed There was a shooting incident with Israeli troops near the Rafah crossing; both sides said they were investigating the incident.

Israeli military officials said that Israeli troops were not present in all parts of the Philadelphia corridor, but they were now able to effectively cut off Hamas’s ability to move through tunnels under and near the border. Admiral Hagari said that during the operation, Israeli troops destroyed a nearly mile-long underground tunnel network east of Rafah.

Egypt’s government disputes the cross-border tunnels, saying its army has cleared them in recent years.

The official said a limited number of Israeli troops were also deployed in the Tell Sultan area west of Rafah. This is the deepest Israeli advance into the city confirmed since it launched its ground offensive in Rafah in early May.

Egypt and Israel have traded blame for the continued closure of the Rafah crossing, a vital passage for delivering aid to Gaza and allowing the sick and wounded to leave. Israeli forces seized the crossing on the night of May 7, and Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian officials have been unable to reach an agreement to resume operations there.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmed, Emmad Mekay and Johnson Rice Contributed reporting.

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