Jerusalem: Israel’s defence minister has publicly presented for the first time proposals for the post-war administration of Gaza, where the military on Friday reported deadly overnight strikes.
Defence Minister Yoav Gallant’s plan for the “day after”, shared with the media late Thursday but not yet adopted by Israel’s war cabinet, says that neither Israel nor Hamas will govern Gaza and rejects future Jewish settlements there.
The minister’s broad outline was unveiled on the eve of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s fourth trip to the region since a Hamas attack on October 7 triggered the war.
Questions over the future of the besieged Palestinian territory have been front of mind for many as calls mount for a ceasefire after nearly three months of devastating fighting.
Much of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has been reduced to rubble, while civilian deaths have soared and the UN has warned of a humanitarian crisis that has left hundreds of thousands displaced, facing famine and disease.
Bombing continued through the night in the southern areas of Khan Yunis and Rafah as well as parts of central Gaza, according to AFP correspondents.
The Israeli army said its forces had “struck over 100 targets” across Gaza over the past 24 hours, including military positions, rocket launch sites and weapons depots.
A fighter jet hit the central area of Bureij overnight, killing “an armed terrorist cell” after what the army described in a statement as an attempted attack on an Israeli tank.
And “a number” of Palestinian militants were killed in clashes in Khan Yunis, a major city in southern Gaza that has become the focus of the fighting, the army said.
According to Gallant’s proposed outline, the war will continue until Israel has dismantled Hamas’s “military and governing capabilities” and secured the return of hostages taken on October 7.
After Israel achieves its objectives - for which the proposal sets no timeline - Palestinian “civil committees” will begin assuming the territory’s governance, it said.
“Hamas will not govern Gaza, (and) Israel will not govern Gaza’s civilians,” according to the text, which offers little concrete details.
“Palestinian bodies will be in charge, with the condition that there will be no hostile actions or threats against the State of Israel.”
Israel launched its campaign against Hamas after the militant group’s October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
The militants also took around 250 hostages, 132 of whom remain in captivity, according to Israel, including at least 24 believed to have been killed.
Relentless Israeli bombardment and ground invasion have killed at least 22,438 people, most of them women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.
Conditions for Gaza’s civilians are precarious, with the United Nations estimating 1.9 million of the territory’s 2.4 million people are displaced.
AFPTV footage showed entire families, seeking safety from the violence, arriving in the southern border city of Rafah in overloaded cars and on foot, pushing handcarts stacked with bedding and other possessions.
“We fled Jabalia camp to Maan (in Khan Yunis) and now we are fleeing from Maan to Rafah,” said one woman who declined to give her name. “(We have) no water, no electricity and no food.”
A spokesman for the UN refugee for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, told AFP that Rafah is overwhelmed by the influx.
“The city is usually home to only 250,000 persons. And now, it’s more than 1.3 million,” said Adnan Abu Hasna.
“We have recently noticed a major collapse in health conditions” and a “significant spread” of disease, he added.
On Thursday, the army reported more strikes in and around Gaza City, now a largely devastated urban combat zone, and Khan Yunis in the south.
It also said that an air strike in northern Gaza had killed the chief of operational staff for Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group fighting alongside Hamas.
‘Immediate measures’ on aid
During his visit, Blinken plans to discuss with Israeli leaders “immediate measures to increase substantially humanitarian assistance to Gaza”, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.
Aid entering the besieged territory has slowed to a trickle during the war, even as a UN Security Council last month demanded the “safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale”.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk on Thursday said he was “very disturbed” by recent comments from two far-right Israeli ministers who separately called for Palestinians to leave Gaza and for Israeli settlers to return, raising fears of mass expulsions.
Gallant’s proposal, meanwhile, said that while Israel would reserve the right to operate inside the territory, there would be “no Israeli civilian presence in the Gaza Strip”.
The war in Gaza has threatened to spill over into a wider regional conflict, with tensions brewing along the Israel-Lebanon border.
A Tuesday strike in Lebanon, widely assumed to have been carried out by Israel, killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh Al Aruri.
It hit the south Beirut stronghold of the Hezbollah movement, which has traded tit-for-tat fire across the border with Israel for months.
Hezbollah has vowed that the killing on its home turf will not go unpunished, while Israeli army chief Herzi Halevi said troops on the border were “in very high readiness”.