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Israel will begin to scale down its military offensive in the southern Gaza Strip, according to its defense minister.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said at a news conference Monday that Israel recently ended its intensive ground operation in northern Gaza after taking military control of the area and that he expected similar action would happen in the south as well.
“It will end soon,” he said. “In both places we will reach the moment for the next stage.”
The comment comes a day after the White House urged Israel to scale back its ground operations as the country’s war against Hamas in Gaza crossed the 100-day milestone on Sunday.
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Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel’s ground offensive in southern Gaza will soon be scaled down. (JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Gallant did not provide specifics as to when troops, tanks and other equipment would be removed from the territory. He also ruled out a cease-fire, saying military pressure on Hamas is the best way to secure the release of the more than 100 hostages still in Hamas captivity.
“Only from a position of strength can we ensure the release of hostages,” he said.
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Gallant also said Israel would continue targeting Hamas’ leaders, calling them the “head of the snake.” Several of these leaders are believed to be hiding in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis.
Israel’s defense minister said its military will continue to target Hamas leaders even if ground operations in Gaza completely come to an end. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
On Sunday, the White House said “it’s the right time” for Israel to transition to “low-intensity operations” in Gaza.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said during a public interview on Sunday that the U.S. has been speaking to Israel “about a transition to low-intensity operations” in Gaza.
“We believe it’s the right time for that transition. And we’re talking to them about doing that,” he added.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) met with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Jan. 9. (Elad Malka (IMoD)/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Kirby recognized that Israel had taken some “precursory steps” toward scaling down its offensive but said there was more to do.
“We’re not saying let your foot up off the gas completely and don’t keep going after Hamas,” he continued. “It’s just that we believe the time is coming here very, very soon for a transition to this lower intensity phase.”
In response, Gallant said Israel would continue its war against Hamas.
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“It’s been 100 days, yet we will not stop until we win,” he said.
Israeli soldiers fire a mobile howitzer in the north of Israel, near the border with Lebanon, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
The war in Gaza has persisted since Israel declared war on Hamas after the terror group carried out an unprecedented attack on Israeli soil on Oct. 7. In total, the war has killed nearly 24,000 Palestinians and displaced approximately 85% of the territory’s 2.3 million residents.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue fighting until Hamas is destroyed and all remaining hostages are freed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.