israel's gaza may end in next month
Armored vehicles and armored bulldozers of the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip on December 5. Photo: IDF

US officials predict that Israel’s ground campaign may end in January 2024 after the attack on the southern Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the coming weeks may shift to a more localized and less intense offensive strategy targeting Hamas members and leaders in the southern Gaza Strip, officials said. US officials said on December 5.

These officials predict that the current phase of the IDF’s campaign against the Gaza Strip is expected to end in January 2024. However, the White House expressed “deep concern” about civilian casualties as the IDF expanded combat operations into the southern Gaza Strip, a senior US official said.

According to several other US officials, the country has firmly warned Israel that the IDF cannot repeat the “cruel tactics” applied in the northern Gaza Strip as well as must make more efforts to minimize injuries to civilians.

Although many senior officials in the administration of US President Joe Biden have repeatedly publicly called on Israel to make more efforts to minimize civilian casualties, they still avoid directly criticizing any of the IDF’s tactics due to the belief that behind-the-scenes consulting for Israel would be better.

Israeli officials have repeatedly affirmed that their ultimate goal is to weaken Hamas to the point where the group cannot repeat the October 7 attack.

A senior US official said this goal is unlikely to be achieved by the end of this year, and Israel plans to continue pursuing it in the next phase of the conflict, which US officials consider a “long-term campaign.”

An Israeli official said the transition to combat operations could take place in the next few weeks. “We are launching a high-intensity campaign in the coming weeks, then switching to a lower intensity,” the Israeli official revealed.

Many current US assessments show that Israel cannot sustain a high-intensity campaign indefinitely, especially with reserves mobilized, an intelligence source said.

Israel also has to deal with almost daily raids by the Hezbollah group in Lebanon. This could cause the IDF to switch to a more selective attack tactic after taking out as many Hamas members as possible.

US officials expect Israel to shift to a more selective attack strategy in January 2024, similar to how the US shifted from high-intensity combat in Afghanistan and Iraq to a narrower campaign targeting armed group leaders that Washington considers terrorist.

After US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Israel to take concrete steps to protect civilians, the IDF published an online map dividing the Gaza Strip into small, numbered areas to warn people about the attack is about to happen and where to evacuate from. However, accessing this map is difficult because electricity and the Internet are constantly cut off in the Gaza Strip.