Israeli approach to Gaza ground war aligns with US advice, officials say | ET REALITY

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Israel’s apparent decision to postpone a full-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip and instead conduct more limited ground incursions, at least initially, aligns with suggestions that US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III made to their Israeli counterparts in recent times. days, U.S. officials said Saturday.

Biden administration officials warned that it was difficult to know what Israel would ultimately do, as increased airstrikes and expanded ground incursions over the past three days indicated a more aggressive posture.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said late Saturday that Israeli forces had entered the Gaza Strip on Friday to begin “the second stage of the war,” although he did not describe the move as an invasion. Military officials said earlier on Saturday that Israeli troops had advanced toward the northern part of the enclave and remained there Saturday night.

So far, the incursions into Gaza by Israeli ground forces are smaller and more targeted than Israeli military officials initially described to Mr. Austin and other senior US military officials, US officials said on Saturday.

Indeed, initial Israeli invasion plans alarmed American officials, who expressed concern that they lacked achievable military objectives and that the Israeli military was not yet ready to launch a ground invasion.

In telephone conversations with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, Austin has stressed the need to carefully consider how Israeli forces could carry out a ground invasion of Gaza, where Hamas maintains an intricate network of tunnels under densely populated areas.

The Israelis improved and refined their plan after a concerted effort by Austin and other officials, a U.S. official said Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe war planning between allies. However, Biden administration officials have insisted that the United States had not told Israel what to do and still supports a ground invasion.

Other factors that likely also influenced Israel’s war planning, U.S. officials say, are the potential impact on hostage negotiations and the fact that Israeli political and military leaders have been divided over how, when and even whether to invade. .

But current and former Pentagon officials, as well as former U.S. commanders who have conducted urban military operations, said Saturday that Israel appeared to be carrying out a phased operation, with smaller reconnaissance units advancing toward Gaza to locate the militants. Hamas fighters, confront them and identify them. their vulnerabilities.

“Once the weaknesses, cracks and gaps are discovered, the main assault force is brought in,” said Mick Mulroy, a former senior Middle East policy official at the Pentagon and a retired CIA officer.

Frederick B. Hodges, a retired three-star Army general who served in Iraq, said the tactic also appeared to be a way for Israeli forces to “reduce or limit casualties as well as collateral damage” to buildings.

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