Will Israel launch a new Gaza offensive after ceasefire extension expires?

Will Israel launch a new Gaza offensive after ceasefire extension expires?
While international efforts to extend the ceasefire might have achieved short-term success, it is feared that there will be potentially more intense bombardment when it finally expires.
3 min read
27 November, 2023
The ceasefire has brought very limited respite to Gaza civilians [Getty]

With the four-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas now extended - but only by two days - speculation is growing over the possibility Israel  might end the spell of quiet with a new offensive.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and spokesperson Eylon Levy have said that they are ready to resume military action against Hamas.

Levy said that Israel is prepared to "continue with full force" if the ceasefire framework expires.  

Since Hamas's surprise 7 October attack, Netanyahu said that Israel's goal has been to "eliminate" Hamas and prevent any future threat to Israel - and he has continued to assert that aim even as the temporary ceasefire came into effect.

"The war continues. We continue until we have achieved complete victory," the Israeli Prime Minister said as the truce began.

Israeli army spokesperson Lt Col Richard Hecht described the truce as an "operational pause," suggesting only a temporary halt to the fighting. The Israeli military's posture indicates a reluctance to engage in long-term peace talks at this point.

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International and domestic pressures

Internationally, there's been a push to extend the ceasefire, led by officials including Qatar's Prime Minister and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, to prevent further escalation and manage the conflict diplomatically. This includes efforts to reduce civilian casualties and facilitate hostage releases.

In the US, a divide exists within the White House regarding President Joe Biden's approach to the situation. Concerns have been raised by White House staff about the US strategy towards civilian casualties and the broader vision for the region post-conflict. 

"Progressive" voices, including Senator Bernie Sanders, have advocated for US military aid to Israel to come with conditions, to press Israel to end its bombing of Gaza and halt construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

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Within Israel, factors such as the economic impact of the conflict and global disapproval of Israel's military tactics in Gaza also play a role.

Netanyahu is facing serious internal pressure, particularly concerning the release of hostages taken by Hamas on 7 October. Failure to secure the release of the hostages could have significant consequences for him and his far-right government.

The road ahead

While international calls for extending the ceasefire could prove successful in the short term, the stance of the Israeli leadership and military indicates a preparedness for further military action, and perhaps even more intense bombing when the truce ends.

Israel's ground invasion has established control over Gaza's coastline and have divided the territory, encircling its northern part. 

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According to estimates by aid organisations, approximately 200,000 to 300,000 civilians remain in northern Gaza, while hundreds of thousands have fled.

The Israeli military has heavily bombarded this area, targeting a variety of sites including places of worship, hospitals, schools, and residential zones, killing close to 15,000 Palestinians across this area since 7 October.