Israel is promising to destroy Hamas in the Gaza Strip through an unrelenting assault, but even if it wins the war, it has no idea how it would manage the destroyed Palestinian enclave.
Code-named “Operation Swords of Iron,” eight regional and Western officials with knowledge of the conflict who declined to be named because of the sensitive nature of the matter said that the military campaign will be unparalleled in its ferocity and unlike anything Israel has conducted in Gaza in the past.
Israel has called up a record 360,000 reservists and has been bombarding the tiny enclave non-stop following Hamas’s assault on southern Israel on Oct. 7, which killed about 1,400 people, mostly civilians.
The immediate Israeli strategy, said three regional officials familiar with discussions between the U.S. and Middle Eastern leaders, is to destroy Gaza’s infrastructure, even at the cost of high civilian casualties, push the enclave’s people towards the Egyptian border and go after Hamas by blowing up the labyrinth of underground tunnels the group has built to conduct its operations.
Israeli officials have said that they don’t have a clear idea for what a post-war future might look like, though.
Some of U.S. President Joe Biden’s aides are concerned that while Israel may craft an effective plan to inflict lasting damage to Hamas, it has yet to formulate an exit strategy, a source in Washington familiar with the matter said.
Trips to Israel by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin this past week had stressed the need to focus on the post-war plan for Gaza, the source added.