According to officials, Israel made the decision two weeks ago to refrain from a full-scale invasion of Gaza in favor of a more deliberate, phased ground offensive, in line with suggestions from Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III to Israeli counterparts.
Despite this, Israel has carried out a punishing air campaign, dropping thousands of tons of bombs, while also protecting its ground troops from Hamas ambushes. Nearly three dozen Israeli soldiers have died, indicating a cautious approach by the Israeli army on the ground while utilizing warplanes and artillery to pound targets.
Former U.S. commanders familiar with urban battles in Iraq and Syria stated that encircling Hamas in one of its strongholds and cutting off its resupply lines and communications forces would lead the group to use up existing supplies and exhaust its fighters.
Retired Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., who previously headed U.S. Central Command, explained that the Israeli military has set five major objectives for the Gaza campaign, including dismantling Hamas, minimizing civilian casualties, reducing risks to its own troops, recovering hostages, and avoiding broadening the war beyond Gaza.
General McKenzie noted that Israel is achieving most of these goals by focusing on cutting off Gaza City from the rest of the enclave, suppressing Hamas rocket fire into Israel, and searching for hostages with U.S. assistance, all while striving to minimize civilian casualties.
He stated, “The Israeli campaign has been very deliberate.”
However, General McKenzie also emphasized that time “is not necessarily on Israel’s side,” as criticism of Israel is mounting, putting pressure on the Israeli Defense Forces to inflict damage on Hamas as quickly as possible.
General Brown warned that the longer the conflict continues, the more challenging it will become for Israel, drawing on his military career experience.