Officials say visiting Sullivan urged Israeli leaders to scale down military operations Hamas in coming weeks; Biden urges Israel ‘be more careful’ with Gaza civilians
The United States wants the Israel-Hamas war to end “as soon as possible,” the White House said Thursday, as visiting US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan pressed Israel on moving away from its ferocious military campaign and instead focusing more on pinpoint operations.
Meeting top Israeli officials in Tel Aviv, Sullivan said the Biden administration wants the Israel Defense Forces to wrap up the current phase of “high intensity” fighting in Gaza within weeks, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel.
Israeli leaders, however, continued to vow that the IDF would push ahead with the military offensive in the Gaza Strip until the terror group.
There’s an understanding that the IDF will remain active in Gaza well beyond the end of the current phase, but Sullivan made clear that the US expects a “major rollback” in the intensity of the fighting within weeks, the Israeli official said, confirming reporting by the Walla news site.
Asked for comment on the matter, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby says during a briefing that Sullivan “did talk about the possible transitioning from what we would call high-intensity operations — which is what we’re seeing them do now — to lower intensity operations sometime in the near future.”
“But I don’t want to put a time stamp on that. The last thing we want to do is telegraph to Hamas what they’re likely to face in the coming weeks and months,” Kirby added.
A second Israeli official told The Times of Israel that some Biden officials have been pressing for the current phase of the IDF’s operations to wrap up already by the end of 2023.
The New York Times also reported that the US is pushing for Israel to end large-scale fighting by the end of the year. According to the report, the administration wants the next stage of fighting to rely on smaller groups of elite Israeli troops who will enter populated areas of Gaza to carry out specific missions to locate and kill Hamas leaders, rescue hostages and dismantle Hamas tunnels before withdrawing.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office responded to the report saying the premier “made it clear that Israel will continue the war until we complete all of its goals.”
In its readout issued on Sullivan’s meetings with Netanyahu and members of Israel’s war cabinet, the White House said the US national security adviser was briefed in detail on the IDF campaign in Gaza, “including its objectives, phasing and setting conditions for shifts over time from high-intensity clearing operations to lower intensity surgical operations against Hamas remnants.”
Following Kirby’s comments, Biden himself again 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,” Biden told reporters after an event at a medical research center near Washington.
During his meetings in Tel Aviv, Sullivan also told Israeli officials that starting serious talks regarding the “day after” in Gaza will help buy the Biden administration more time to continue supporting the war, Walla reported, citing a senior US official.
Earlier in the day, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Sullivan in public remarks before their meeting that the IDF’s war against Hamas in Gaza will take “more than several months.” Gallant did not speak of different stages in the war when he made his comments.