United States Establishes Clear Red Lines for Israel as Ceasefire Expires
The US has defined stricter boundaries for Israel's military engagement as a ceasefire with Hamas concludes. The week-long halt in hostilities was seen as a diplomatic success, but now both Israel and Hamas are facing significant challenges.
Hamas fights for its survival, claiming victory as long as it can launch attacks on Israel. Israel, despite its superior firepower, is tasked with a more complex mission. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed retribution following a deadly attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians.
Upon resuming its offensive, Israel restated its war goals, focusing on freeing hostages, destroying Hamas, and securing Gaza's inability to threaten its citizens.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has visited Israel and the region four times since the conflict began, has stressed that Israel must adhere to international humanitarian law in its approach. His recent comments outlined US expectations: better civilian protection, less displacement, sparing vital infrastructure, and allowing displaced civilians to return home safely.
Early in the conflict, President Joe Biden visited Israel, offering support but cautioning against an excessive response. Blinken's recent statements indicate concern that Netanyahu may not have heeded this advice.
Israel's upcoming offensive in southern Gaza, aiming to dismantle Hamas' stronghold, raises concerns of civilian casualties and displacement, risking another refugee crisis as people might flee to Sinai.
Blinken has publicly demanded that Israel fight with consideration towards civilians. A failure to do so, resulting in significant Palestinian casualties similar to those in the north, might force Biden to reconsider the level of US support for Israel, including its UN Security Council vetoes.
Hamas, still holding hostages, retains the capability to disrupt Israeli military efforts and apply pressure. The conflict has entered a new phase, with regional implications and a profound sense of uncertainty for individuals in both Israel and Gaza.