Dec 8, 2023 - World

Israel's operation in Gaza's Khan Younis expected to last 3 to 4 weeks more

 KHAN YUNIS, GAZA - DECEMBER 08: Injured Palestinians, including children, are brought to Nasser Hospital to receive medical treatment following Israeli attacks in Khan Yunis, Gaza on December 08, 2023. (Photo by Belal Khaled/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Injured Palestinians, including children, are brought to Nasser Hospital to receive medical treatment following Israeli attacks in Khan Yunis, Gaza on Dec. 08, 2023. Photo: Belal Khaled/Anadolu via Getty Images

A senior Israeli defense official told Axios Israel expects to end its military operation in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis in three to four weeks. The high-intensity phase of the war would likely last another three to four weeks, the official said.

Why it matters: The Biden administration has backed the Israeli operation in Gaza and says it supports Israel's stated goal of ousting Hamas in Gaza but the White House is under mounting international and domestic pressure to tell Israel to end the war.

  • More than 17,400 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to the ministry of health in Hamas-run Gaza.

Driving the news: A senior Israeli official said Israeli Defense Forces "have made significant progress" in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, but that the operation in the southern city of Khan Younis, where Israel believes Hamas leadership is located, "has just started."

  • President Biden spoke on Thursday to Prime Minister Netanyahu about the Israeli military plans and the operation in Khan Younis. A similar call was held last night between U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant.

Behind the scenes: The senior Israeli official said the U.S. isn't "pulling the brakes" or giving Israel a firm deadline to stop the operation but pointing to the fact that time is running out.

  • The gap between the Biden administration and the Israeli government is about the one-month timetable Israel is giving for ending the high-intensity phase of the Gaza war, the official said.
  • White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told the Aspen Security Forum in Washington on Thursday that the U.S. hasn't given a firm deadline to Israel.
  • "This is their conflict. That said, we do have influence, even if we don't have ultimate control over what happens on the ground in Gaza," Finer said.

What they're saying: The Israeli defense official said the U.S. would be satisfied if Israel ended the high intensity phase of the operation by the end of December, while Israel is aiming for the end of January.

  • "The U.S. message is that they would want us to finish faster, with less civilian casualties and more humanitarian aid to Gaza. We want the same thing, but there is another player here and this is the enemy that doesn't agree," the official said. "The U.S. understands this. We are working together. We need them and they need us."
  • A spokesperson for the National Security Council said: "These are Israeli military operations, and the Israelis will decide their course. We will continue to support Israel's efforts to defend itself from Hamas terrorists."
  • The Israeli Ministry of Defense declined to comment.
Go deeper