U.S. sees Israel’s military strategy in Gaza as strengthening Hamas

U.S. sees Israel’s military strategy in Gaza as strengthening Hamas

Politico reports:

The Biden administration fears Israel is disastrously squandering its opportunity for victory against Hamas, losing its best chance to eliminate the group’s hold on Gaza and threat to the Israeli people.

Top officials are publicly calling Israel’s strategy in Gaza self-defeating and likely to open the door to Hamas’ return — a level of criticism of the Middle East ally not seen since the war began in October.

The officials say Israel’s government has failed to hold parts of Gaza after clearing them, has turned the civilian population and the rest of the world against it with widespread bombing and inadequate humanitarian aid, and enabled Hamas to recruit more fighters.

The U.S. for months kept any criticism private, quietly pushing Israel to shift how it retaliates against Hamas for its Oct. 7 attack that started the war. But the frustration of watching Israel refuse to change course has increasingly spilled into the open, each broadside a crowbar widening the rift between Washington and Jerusalem.

“We want to encourage a deeper focus on the connection between the ongoing military operations and, ultimately, the strategic endgame,” said a senior administration official, granted anonymity to discuss sensitive internal discussions. “We’re going to keep pressing on that point.”

The official added that national security adviser Jake Sullivan used his visit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel last week to discuss how their operation can lead to an “achievable and durable” success against Hamas.

In a Tuesday interview with CNN, Netanyahu said “we have to get rid of Hamas. Otherwise, there’s no future for Gaza.” But recent U.S. intelligence is fueling a growing concern that such an outcome isn’t possible.

Although Hamas’ communications and military abilities have been degraded, only 30 to 35 percent of its fighters — those who were a part of Hamas before the Oct. 7 attack — have been killed and about 65 percent of its tunnels are still intact, U.S. intelligence indicates.

Biden officials have also become increasingly concerned that Hamas has been able to recruit during wartime — thousands over the last several months. That has allowed the group to withstand months of Israeli offensives, according to a person familiar with U.S. intelligence. [Continue reading…]

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