November 30, 2023

There is a debate at the highest levels of the government and the IDF about whether the military should already begin its invasion of southern Gaza or whether this must wait for an interim deal on hostages, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Numerous leaks have been made about terms that Israel or Hamas wants as the sides negotiate what might be an interim deal getting significant numbers of Israeli civilian hostages back, but not all hostages, for some kind of pause and prisoner exchange, but not necessarily that Hamas has demanded. Whether Israel agrees to a deal or not which Hamas has been desperate for, even the possibility of being close to a deal may currently be slowing the push into southern Gaza, the Post understands. The concept is that this is a unique tipping point where the IDF has mostly taken over northern Gaza and could make a natural pause. In contrast, once the IDF invades southern Gaza, to do so it will not only have committed large numbers of air, sea, and ground forces, it will also need to maneuver a huge logistics complex from the North toward the South to facilitate such an ongoing invasion. Few hostages or top Hamas leaders were found to date in the North. IDF Chief-of-Staff (Lt.-Gen.) Herzi Halevi made it clear on Thursday that “if it were up to me”, the IDF would be pushing further south. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant discussed on Thursday moving the war forward to new stages, but conspicuously did not refer to going South. Although the government and the IDF have said they wanted to eliminate Hamas, they have consistently preached that bringing back hostages was an equal goal – something which has not seemed to add up until now. But this moment before an invasion of the South, could be a point where a balancing between the two goals takes place. Israel can take some time to weigh the decision, but within some period of days, stagnant forces could reduce morale, so the question will likely not remain open for too long.