Wednesday, May 22, 2024

U.S. officials have made it clear to Israel that they want them to end their large-scale ground and air campaign in the Gaza Strip within weeks and transition to a more targeted phase in its war against Hamas. This information came from American officials on Thursday.

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, met with Israeli leaders on Thursday about the direction of the war. Four U.S. officials said Mr. Biden wants Israel to switch to more precise tactics in about three weeks, although Mr. Sullivan did not specify a timetable. The officials asked for anonymity to discuss the president’s thinking.

President Biden, after a speech on prescription drug costs at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., said on Thursday, “I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives — not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful.”

According to American officials, the new phase that the Americans envision would involve smaller groups of elite forces that would move in and out of population centers in Gaza, carrying out more precise missions to find and kill Hamas leaders, rescue hostages, and destroy tunnels.

Although Israel’s defense minister indicated that their campaign against Hamas would last “more than several months,” U.S. officials insisted that their position was not in direct conflict with that of Israel’s. Israeli leaders presented their own timeline to Mr. Sullivan that was slower than the one favored by Mr. Biden and some of his advisers.

Mr. Sullivan also heard from Israeli officials about their concerns about a wider regional conflict, as their military trades strikes with the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon across Israel’s northern border. “The international community, and the United States in particular, must take swift action to ensure that this threat is removed,” the office of Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet and a former military chief of staff, said in a statement. The statement noted that Hezbollah and Hamas share an ally and sponsor in Iran.

Philippe Lazzarini, the director of the United Nations agency that assists Palestinians, described conditions in the Palestinian territory as a “living hell.”

Fighting across Gaza appears to have intensified this week, with Israel saying Wednesday that 10 of its soldiers had been killed in a single day.

More than two months of air and artillery strikes have forced hundreds of thousands of Gazans into makeshift encampments without enough food or water, and nearly nonexistent sanitation, Mr. Lazzarini said in a speech Wednesday hours after visiting southern Gaza.

Mr. Netanyahu’s government and the Biden administration have mostly sought to paper over their divides since the attack that killed at least 1,200 people in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The United States and Israel have also differed over who should control Gaza after the war. American officials have said the Palestinian Authority, which has international support, should control the enclave, while Mr. Netanyahu has appeared to rule that out for now.

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