Israeli Gaza invasion delayed by disputes, international pressure

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - JERUSALEM, Oct 25 — Israel has not launched a ground invasion of Gaza, despite announcing its imminence, a delay media reports and experts attribute to international pressure, political-military divisions and concerns over hostages.

Eighteen days after the deadliest attack ever launched into Israel by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas that rules Gaza, the Israeli military is relentlessly pounding the territory.

But apart from some relatively minor incursions, the much-vaunted land offensive has not been unleashed.

“There’s a crisis of confidence between (Israeli Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF (army),” noted editorial writer Nahum Barnea in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

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“The government is having difficulties taking decisions that everyone agrees on about the top issues,” he wrote.

According to government and military sources cited by Barnea, “Netanyahu is angry at the generals and blames them for what happened” during what Israelis are calling “the October 7 fiasco”.

On that day, the country was left stunned after Hamas militants stormed across the Gaza border and went on a rampage that Israeli officials say has killed more than 1,400 people.

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They also snatched more than 220 hostages in the worst-ever attack in Israel’s history, which has prompted a ferocious Israeli bombardment of Gaza which Hamas officials say has killed 5,791 people.

Unanimity has brought together the left and right wings of mainstream Israeli politics.

“Disputes over these operations are creating tensions, especially between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant,” wrote columnist Amos Harel in Tuesday’s left-leaning Haaretz daily.

State radio noted “dissent between the premier and senior ranks in the military”, with mutual accusations of failing to prevent the bloody attack by Hamas militants.

‘Mutual trust’

Commentators say the fact that official statements often mention convergence of views at the highest level means the opposite, revealing the artificial nature of a united front.

“The prime minister, the defence minister and the IDF chief of staff are working in close and full cooperation, around the clock, to lead the State of Israel to a decisive victory over Hamas,” said a communique on Tuesday from the Government Press Office.

“There is total and mutual trust between the prime minister, the defence minister and the IDF chief of staff; the unity of the goal is clear.”

Patrick Bettane, an intelligence specialist at Israel’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) think tank, confirmed “disagreement about a ground offensive”.

“But the fact that there are hostages being held in the Gaza Strip complicates everything,” he said.

“Israel is waiting to see how this problem can be resolved before it acts.”

Relatives of those seized and taken to Gaza have staged daily demonstrations outside Gallant’s home in Tel Aviv.

Akiva Eldar, an expert on Israeli politics, asserted that “after the emotions aroused by this terrible massacre, Bibi (Netanyahu) and the generals are starting to think differently”.

He said the presence in Israel of US military personnel was aimed at preventing any move that could mean the death of hostages, including Americans.

This, Eldar said, sheds new light on pledges by both Netanyahu and Gallant that Hamas will have been eradicated when the war is over.

‘Nice’ words

Nevertheless, army chief Herzi Halevi repeated overnight that his aim was the complete removal of Hamas and its leaders.

“We are well prepared for the ground operations in the south,” he told troops according to a statement released by an army spokesperson.

Political analyst Daniel Bensimon said: “Disagreement or not, it’s a fact that Americans and the Europeans are coming to Israel to caress it with honeyed words with the aim of preventing a ground offensive.”

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday became the latest foreign leader to visit the region and meet with Israeli premier Netanyahu.

“The international community fears a ground operation would spark a chain reaction that could engulf the whole region, and maybe even further afield,” Bensimon said.

Israelis have been touched by expressions of compassion and solidarity from several leaders to visit the country over the past two weeks, including US President Joe Biden who came on October 18.

Macron told Israelis they were not alone in the “fight against these terrorist groups” but cautioned against “enlarging this conflict”.

For Bensimon, “Biden and Macron say nice things.”

“But in the end they want to stop Israel from going into Gaza and prevent Iran from becoming involved” through the Shiite Hezbollah movement, its proxy in Lebanon, he said. — AFP

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