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Netanyahu Announces Winding Down of Operations in Gaza, Transfer of Israeli Troops to Lebanon Border

Israel Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that Israel is nearing the end of its current phase of operations against Hamas in Gaza and moving its troops towards the northern border to Lebanon to fight the Lebanese Hezbollah group, according to a report by the Associated Press (AP).


In a detailed television interview, Netanyahu stated that while the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are close to completing their ground offensive in Rafah, southern Gaza, this does not signify the end of the war against Hamas. Instead, it will mean a reduced need for troops in Gaza, enabling the transfer of forces to the north.


“We will have the possibility of transferring some of our forces north, and we will do that,” Netanyahu said on Israel’s Channel 14, a pro-Netanyahu station. “First and foremost, for defense,” he added, emphasizing the aim to allow displaced Israelis to return to their homes.


During the interview, Netanyahu mentioned that while operations in Gaza are winding down, Israel would continue with targeted strikes, referred to as “mowing,” to prevent Hamas from regrouping.


Hezbollah military troops
Hezbollah military troops

Netanyahu said that once the intense phase in Gaza concludes, the IDF will focus on the northern border with Lebanon, where clashes with Hezbollah have intensified in recent weeks. Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group, and IDF have been launching attacks at one another resulting in casualties among Hezbollah fighters, including senior commanders.


“We will transfer some of our forces north after the end of the intense phase in Gaza,” Netanyahu stated. He highlighted the dual purpose of this shift: to enhance defense and to facilitate the return of residents displaced from northern Israel.


More than a million Palestinians sought shelter in Rafah before Israel's air and ground operations commenced, despite international calls to halt the offensive. The United Nations has described the conditions in Rafah as “apocalyptic,” with around 800,000 people displaced. The Rafah border crossing with Egypt, a crucial entry point for humanitarian aid, has been closed since the Israeli military took control.

Palestinians look for survivors after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip; October 2023
Palestinians look for survivors after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip; October 2023

International pressure on Israel has mounted, with the UN’s top court ordering an immediate halt to military operations in Rafah, citing a disastrous humanitarian situation.


This stance contrasts with a broader proposal by U.S. President Joe Biden, which aims for the release of all hostages in exchange for a permanent ceasefire and Israeli troop withdrawal. Netanyahu’s comments have sparked controversy and opposition within Israel, including from former war cabinet members who argue that a partial deal contradicts previous unanimous decisions.


President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu’s remarks have elicited reactions from various quarters. Israeli opposition politician Gadi Eisenkot criticized the prime minister’s statements, calling for clarification and warning of potential damage to Israel’s war objectives. The Hostages Families Forum condemned any suggestion of ending the fighting without securing the release of all hostages, labeling it a “national failure.”


Netanyahu has faced nationwide protests in Israel, with demonstrators demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and the return of all hostages. Pressure is also growing from Israel’s military and international allies to devise a post-war strategy for Gaza’s governance.



People attend a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and a call for the release of hostages in Gaza, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 22, 2024. (REUTERS)
People attend a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and a call for the release of hostages in Gaza, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 22, 2024. (REUTERS)

As Israel prepares to shift focus to its northern border, concerns are rising about the potential for a wider conflict with Hezbollah. U.S. officials have expressed serious concerns about Hezbollah’s capacity to overwhelm Israel’s northern air defenses, including the Iron Dome system. The implications of a full-scale war with Hezbollah could be devastating, adding another layer of complexity to the already tense situation.

Smoke rises following the Israeli strike targeted in the al- khaim town in Nabatieh Governorate 12 March 2024
Smoke rises following the Israeli strike targeted in Lebanon's al- khaim town in Nabatieh Governorate; March 2024

In conclusion, while Israel’s operations in Gaza are winding down, the focus is shifting to the northern border with Lebanon. The situation remains fluid, with ongoing humanitarian concerns, international pressure, and the looming threat of a broader regional conflict.

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