Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff, met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday and said Israel’s military operations in Gaza will take “more than a few additional weeks,” Axios reported.
Blinken’s visit to Israel marked his third since October 7 and came as it’s unclear if Israel and Hamas will extend the hostage deal truce for another day. Israeli officials appear eager to resume the onslaught and plan on significantly expanding operations in southern Gaza.
Blinken met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet in Jerusalem. Sources told Axios that Blinken asked to be briefed about plans for the campaign in south Gaza, where it’s estimated 2 million Palestinians are located as hundreds of thousands fled from the north.
After the meeting, Blinken told reporters that the US remains committed to continuing to support Israel’s war. Blinken said he “urged Israel to take every possible measure to avoid civilian harm” and warned the operations in the south should not kill as many civilians as the campaign in the north.
Blinken said he “made clear the imperative before any operations go forward in southern Gaza there’ll be a clear plan in place that puts a premium on protecting civilians, as well as sustaining and building on humanitarian assistance getting to Gaza.”
Despite the warning, there’s no sign the US will use any leverage over Israel, as US officials have reaffirmed all military aid comes without conditions. According to the Axios report, Blinken didn’t ask Israel to stop the campaign but said the longer the war goes on, the more international pressure will increase to end it.
Netanyahu said he told Blinken the war would continue until the end. “This is the same Hamas that carried out the terrible massacre on October 7, the same Hamas that tries to murder us everywhere. I told him: We swore, and I swore, to eliminate Hamas. Nothing will stop us,” he said.