4 scenarios for the next phase of the Gaza war, with the “intense” fighting set to end

The Israeli Prime Minister says the war in the Gaza Strip will soon enter a new phase.

“The intense phase of the war with Hamas is coming to an end,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a television interview on Sunday. “This does not mean that the war is coming to an end, but that the war in its intense phase is coming to an end.”

But whatever relief these comments may bring after more than six months of horrific bloodshed, Netanyahu quickly made two things clear: A ceasefire in Gaza is not within reach. And the next clash could be in Lebanon, with the forces of a Hamas ally, Hezbollah.

After recalling troops to Gaza, he said: “We will be able to move part of our forces north.”

Netanyahu stopped well short of announcing an invasion of Lebanon, a move that would likely result in heavy losses for Israel and the Lebanese, and instead left the door open for a diplomatic solution with Hezbollah.

Any diplomatic solution in Gaza remains uncertain, in part because Netanyahu's coalition would likely collapse if Israel stopped fighting in Gaza without removing Hamas from power.

However, the prime minister appears to be signaling that Israel, after ending its current military operation in Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city, will not seek to mount major ground invasions of towns in central Gaza, the only area of ​​the territory where the Israeli army has not carried out such attacks.

Although Israeli leaders have said since January that they were moving to a lower intensity war, the end of the Rafah operation could allow that process to be completed.

Netanyahu's remarks and recent comments by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who was in Washington on Monday, indicated that the focus of Israel's political discourse and strategic planning is shifting toward the northern border with Lebanon.

In a statement released on Monday, Mr. Gallant's office said it had discussed with American officials “the transition to 'Phase C' in Gaza and its impact on the region, including with respect to Lebanon and other areas.”

Early in the war, Gallant outlined a three-phase battle plan that called for intense air strikes against Hamas targets and infrastructure; a period of ground operations aimed at “eliminating pockets of resistance”; and a third phase, or Phase C, which would create “a new security reality for the citizens of Israel.”

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