Israel says it does not intend to ‘reoccupy’ Gaza or control it for long time

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Israel does not intend to “reoccupy” Gaza or control it for a long time, a senior Israeli official said in Washington, as Israeli forces pressed their offensive against Hamas militants in the Palestinian coastal enclave.

“We assess that our current operations are effective and successful, and we’ll continue to push,” the Israeli official told reporters late on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s not unlimited or forever,” the official added, without giving a specific timeframe.

Israel has so far been vague about its long-term plans for the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, should it succeed in its air, land, and sea operation to vanquish Hamas following a deadly Oct. 7 rampage in southern Israel by the Islamist militants.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ABC news earlier this week that Israel would seek to have security responsibility for Gaza “for an indefinite period”. That prompted U.S. officials to caution against an Israeli “reoccupation.”

“It’s not Israel’s intention to reoccupy Gaza or control it for a long time,” the senior Israeli official said, adding that “our operation is not open-ended.”

“The idea behind Israel going in militarily is to destroy Hamas’ ability to threaten us,” the official said. “We understand that will take time and that, even if we complete this phase of our military operation, we’ll still have to take some action against their remaining military infrastructure.”

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)