“This needs to be the last [ground] maneuver in Gaza, for the simple reason that afterwards there will be no Hamas,” Gallant said at the Air Force’s headquarters in Tel Aviv in remarks carried by multiple Israeli media outlets.
“It will take a month, two months, three, but in the end, there will be no Hamas.”
Within days of Hamas’ October 7 attack against Israel, the Israeli military had called up some 360,000 reservists and begun drawing up plans to invade Gaza. Despite Gallant stating numerous times since then that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are ready to launch such an operation, a final order to invade has yet to be given.
Israeli military sources first told the Times that cloudy weather was hampering planning for the operation, while other media reports have cited the risk of massive Israeli losses or intervention by Hezbollah fighters. On Friday, Bloomberg reported that the US and some of its European allies were pressuring Israel to postpone the operation until the release of more hostages could be negotiated.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told troops stationed near the Lebanese border Hezbollah “will be making the mistake of its life” if it enters the Israel-Hamas war. Netanyahu warned that Lebanon would be “devastated” in response.
Israeli and Hezbollah forces have engaged in tit-for-tat exchanges of rocket and artillery fire since the conflict with Hamas broke out two weeks ago. While the Lebanese group has sent drones and a number of infiltrators across the border, no large-scale incursion has taken place, and Israel has thus far avoided opening a second front in the north.
Meanwhile, Israeli fighter jets have been pounding Gaza for more than two weeks. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari stated that the air campaign would be intensified ahead of a ground operation. Gallant made a similar statement on Sunday, saying that “before the enemy meets the armored and infantry forces, it will meet the bombs of the air force”.
Israel’s bombing campaign has wreaked widespread destruction on Gaza, and has left nearly 4,700 people in the enclave dead and more than 16,000 wounded, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Despite insisting that residents of Gaza City would be safe if they evacuated to the south of the strip, Israeli warplanes have hit targets there too, including a refugee camp and residential buildings in the city of Khan Younnis.