'More battles to come': Israel says Hamas war will last 'more than several months'

Day in and day out, Gaza residents search for survivors under the rubble of buildings hit by airstrikes

By AFP

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Fri 15 Dec 2023, 1:18 PM

Israel pressed its offensive in the Gaza Strip on Friday after telling key backer US that the war to crush Hamas will last "more than several months".

The battles have so far killed more than 18,700 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the territory's health ministry.

Late Thursday in the southern city of Rafah near the Egyptian border, crowds of Palestinians used flashlights to search under the rubble of buildings for survivors following an Israeli strike.

"This is a residential neighbourhood, women and children live here, as you can see. This residential neighbourhood has been reduced to rubble," said Abu Omar, who is living in Rafah.

"Three missiles on a residential neighbourhood that has nothing to do with any militant activities."

Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said troops were engaged in fighting with militants in two districts of Gaza City late Thursday.

"There will be more tough battles in the days to come," he said.

While the US has strongly backed Israel's response to the October 7 attacks, it has pressed its ally to do more to minimise civilian casualties.

On Thursday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met in Tel Aviv with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

During their meeting, Gallant warned that Israel's fight with Hamas "will require a period of time — it will last more than several months, but we will win and we will destroy them".

Speaking in Washington, US President Joe Biden urged Israel to take more care to protect civilians in Gaza.

"I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives — not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful," said Biden, whose government has provided Israel with billions of dollars in military aid.

White House spokesman John Kirby, meanwhile, said Washington was "not dictating terms" to Israel and that the timeline given by Gallant was "consistent" with what Israeli officials had previously said.

Netanyahu on Thursday vowed to carry on "until victory", and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the war would continue "with or without international support".

Sullivan on Friday will head to the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority leaders, a US official said on condition of anonymity.

The West Bank, which is ruled by the Palestinian Authority (PA), has seen a surge in violence since October 7.

There, the Palestinian health ministry said 11 people had been killed since the Israeli military launched a raid in the city of Jenin and its refugee camp earlier this week.

The war in Gaza has led to increased popular support for Hamas in the West Bank, further weakening the internationally recognised PA.

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