Readers of The New York Times were treated on Monday morning to a breaking-news alert heralding what seemed like a welcome development: “Israel says it has begun to scale back war.” That description, which led the Times website, is about as close to the opposite of the way Israel’s war is heading as could appear in the leading US newspaper.
The Israeli Defense Forces spokesman, Radm. Daniel Hagari, gave the Times the interview that it used for its headline. But Hagari’s quotes never actually promise the “less intense phase” in the Times paraphrase. Hagari instead describes the focus of the pitiless Israeli campaign shifting southward—while his superiors in the Israeli government indicate that it could expand regionally.
Northern Gaza, which has been the focus of intense Israeli ground operations, will apparently see more of what the Times calls “targeted raids” rather than attacks from larger-scale infantry, artillery, and airstrikes. Some Israeli brigades will redeploy out of Gaza, a development announced last week—but one intended to make the war more sustainable for “prolonged fighting,” as Hagari put it then. That fighting will refocus on the central and the southern regions of Gaza, where Israel had previously demanded that most of the population relocate. “It was far from clear that the new phase of Israel’s offensive would be less dangerous for Gazan civilians,” the Times’ Patrick Kingsley observed. That was quite an understatement, considering the starvation and spread of infectious disease the war has inflicted upon those civilians, all as Israel has destroyed Gaza’s healthcare infrastructure.
The description of a “less intense” war was rendered all the more absurd by Israel’s lethal strike on a senior Hezbollah commander, Wissam al-Tawil, in southern Lebanon on Monday. (Haaretz, the liberal Israeli newspaper, attributed the strike to Israel.) Since the beginning of the Israeli reprisal on Gaza for Hamas’s October 7 massacre, Hezbollah has hit northern Israel with its missile arsenal to raise the costs of sacking Gaza, and the IDF has responded in kind. The persistent exchanges of fires have stayed just under the threshold of a declared second front. But that’s an arbitrary measure, not one that changes the reality faced by anyone who lives in northern Israel or southern Lebanon, tens of thousands of whom have fled. [Continue reading…]