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Israeli army chief says Gaza war will be prolonged

Anadolu Agency MIDDLE EAST
Published May 22,2024

The war in the Gaza Strip will be prolonged, Israeli army chief Herzi Halevi said Tuesday, brushing aside international pressure to cease the onslaught on the enclave and insisting that his country's strategy includes the elimination of as many Hamas commanders as possible to exert pressure for the return of Israeli hostages.

"We are in a war we said at the beginning would be prolonged. They (Hamas) have been digging here (the tunnels) for years for defense, and that is not dismantled in a week or a month," Halevi claimed while inspecting his forces at the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza.

The Israeli army launched a ground offensive in the Jabalia refugee camp and its surrounding areas on May 12, which was expanded three days later amid "fierce battles'' with Palestinian resistance groups.

While Halevi did not provide a specific timeline for the cessation of the war on Gaza, he had previously said in January that the conflict would continue throughout 2024.

"The mission is to kill as many (Hamas) commanders as possible, as many, to destroy the infrastructure (in Gaza)," he added.

"This pressure will also help us to bring hostages alive and we are ready to carry out dangerous and complicated operations to bring the bodies of our hostages back to be buried in Israel," he said.

More than 35,600 Palestinians have been killed, the vast majority of whom have been women and children, and nearly 79,900 others injured since last October following an attack by the Palestinian group Hamas.

More than seven months into the Israeli war, vast swathes of Gaza lay in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, which has ordered it to ensure that its forces do not commit acts of genocide and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.