Israel's Assault On Southern Gaza Will Be One Step Too Far For Washington
Launching a ground invasion in the south of Gaza, where residents have been forced to flee, will be virtually impossible for the Biden Administration to accept.
In five weeks of bombings followed by a ground invasion, the Israeli army has effectively taken control of the northern third of the Gaza Strip. Much of the population has been forced to seek refuge in the south, while those who've stayed are in an extremely difficult position: almost all hospitals have ceased to function, and military operations continue non-stop.
Now, Israel has given the first sign of its intention to push its offensive against Hamas into southern Gaza, precisely where it had said it was safe to go. Leaflets were dropped in four localities around the vast Khan Yunis refugee camp in the south, asking residents to evacuate.
But where to go? Gaza already has the highest population density in the world, and the influx of hundreds of thousands of displaced people from north to south, in a war-torn environment, without water, sanitation, or medicine, creates a dramatic humanitarian situation.
International community rejects Israeli "safe zone" proposal
Israel advocates for the creation of a "safe zone" in the southwest corner of the small territory along the Mediterranean. However, United Nations agencies, in an exceptional joint statement Thursday, rejected this proposal and refused to participate.
UN specialized agencies argue that "no safe zone is safe if declared unilaterally or imposed by armed force." A safe zone must be negotiated, argues these organizations, while the UN has lost over 100 of its employees in Israeli bombings.
This standoff between respected organizations like UNICEF or the World Health Organization and a warring army is exceptional and reveals a growing divide caused by the type of war being waged.
November 17, 2023, Gaza: Israeli troops conducting military operations in western Gaza City.
All eyes on Washington's response
U.S. President Joe Biden declared on Wednesday that he would not call for a ceasefire until Israel had neutralized the military capacity of Hamas. At the same time, he is urging the Israeli army to spare civilians, which is impossible in the type of war being waged.
Israel has so far waged its war without concern for international reactions.
The expansion of the war to the south is the issue that could put Israel at odds with its American ally. An Israeli leader estimated that the Jewish state had three weeks before unbearable pressures would arrive. If it decides to advance in the south, the timeframe could be even shorter.
Israel has so far waged its war without concern for international reactions, driven by a population united by the horrors of October 7. A ground incursion in the south carries as much political as military risk: with the labyrinthine alleys of Khan Yunis, overpopulation due to displaced people from the north, and deteriorating humanitarian conditions, Israel is taking risks — with no guarantee of truly destroying Hamas.
The leaflets dropped in the south seem to indicate that the Israeli government has made its decision: it puts its Western allies in a situation that could quickly become untenable. This will be the moment of truth for a war that is shaking the entire world.
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