US urges Israel to switch from Gaza bombardment to ‘precise targeting’ of Hamas

National security adviser Jake Sullivan heralds a ‘transition to another phase of this war’

Andrew Feinberg
Friday 15 December 2023 17:20 GMT
Gaza is 'on its knees and collapsing' says World Health Organisation chief

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Louise Thomas

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The United States is urging Israel to abandon its heavy bombing of the Gaza Strip in favour of more targeted operations aimed at capturing or killing top Hamas leaders.

It comes as the death toll in Gaza approaches 20,000 from weeks of bombardment. About 1,200 people in Israel were killed in the 7 October Hamas attack, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said there would be a “transition to another phase of this war” that is “focused in more precise ways on targeting the leadership and on intelligence-driven operations”.

Mr Sullivan, who met with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, was briefed on “objectives, phasing, and setting conditions for shifts over time from high-intensity clearing operations to lower intensity surgical operations against Hamas remnants” during his meetings in Tel Aviv.

The White House said Mr Sullivan “described US efforts in coordination with allies and partners to deter any attempt to expand the conflict regionally, including in the Red Sea, and expressed President Biden’s commitment to restoring calm along the Blue Line [the unofficial frontier between Lebanon and Israel] through a combination of deterrence and diplomacy”.

The timing of such a transition is unclear but remains part of “intensive discussion between the United States and Israel,” a top White House aide said.

Mr Sullivan, who left Israel on Friday, also said in a statement that his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, had informed him that the Israeli government is now allowing the use of the Kerem Shalom border crossing for delivery of aid into Gaza.

“We welcome this significant step,” he said, adding that President Joe Biden had personally raised the matter with Mr Netanyahu.

Mr Sullivan also said that the US “remains committed to expanding and sustaining the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza” and “will continue to work closely with Egypt and other partners” to ensure that aid continues to flow into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing as well.

“We hope that this new opening will ease congestion and help facilitate the delivery of life-saving assistance to those who need it urgently in Gaza,” he added.

With additional reporting by agencies

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