US Sets Clearer Expectations for Israel as Ceasefire Ends

As the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas comes to an end, both sides are confronted with significant military and political challenges. For Hamas, the priority is to survive and maintain the image of strength. On the other hand, Israel faces a more complex task. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to seek vengeance after Hamas breached the border and caused numerous casualties. The Israeli government, through WhatsApp, reiterated their war aims: to release the hostages, eliminate Hamas, and secure the safety of Israeli residents. The United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has been actively involved in the region, making four visits since the start of the war. However, Blinken’s attempts to prolong the ceasefire failed, and he emphasized the importance of Israel abiding by international humanitarian law and protecting the lives of civilians. He further outlined specific expectations for Israel, including designating safe areas for civilians, avoiding damage to critical infrastructure, and providing displaced civilians with the option to return. These statements reflect the US’s clear red lines and comprehensive checklist for Israel’s conduct during the conflict. Joe Biden, the US President, previously warned against being blinded by rage and emphasized the pursuit of justice. However, Blinken’s remarks imply that Biden believes Netanyahu failed to heed this advice. Israel’s next phase of offensive is expected to target Hamas in southern Gaza, but this poses a significant risk to civilian lives. If Israel employs similar tactics as in northern Gaza, the casualties among civilians could escalate, potentially resulting in a new refugee crisis. Moreover, the outcome of Israel’s actions will also influence Biden’s stance, as he faces criticism from within his Democratic party. The US support for Israel, both in the battlefield and in the United Nations Security Council, may face scrutiny if Israel disregards the US’s expectations and causes high civilian casualties. Meanwhile, Hamas still possesses leverage through its remaining hostages and can exploit opportunities if Israel adheres to the US’s guidance on minimizing firepower. The ongoing conflict marks a turning point for the region, leaving many Palestinians and Israelis uncertain about the future and the potential for further demands for ceasefire without concrete proof of Hamas headquarters at al-Shifa. As the situation evolves, it is crucial for all parties involved to carefully consider their actions and the impact they will have on civilian lives and regional stability.