A month after Hamas attacked Israel, is the Israeli military achieving its goals?
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We have an assessment now of Israel's military campaign in Gaza. A satellite map at npr.org gives some idea of where Israeli troops have moved. Gaza is a rectangle of land along the Mediterranean shore. In the upper part of that rectangle is Gaza City, now surrounded by Israeli troops. In the lower part of that rectangle is an evacuation zone where Israel's government ordered civilians to move, although its airstrikes have hit there, too, according to NPR employees on the ground. Israel says it wants to destroy Hamas after its attack on Israel one month ago. Amir Avivi is watching all of this. He is a retired Israeli brigadier general and former deputy commander of the Gaza division. Welcome to the program, sir.
AMIR AVIVI: Thank you. Good morning.
INSKEEP: Do you feel you understand the purpose of surrounding Gaza City?
AVIVI: Well, I think that following the atrocities - really the vicious attack, the beheading, the raping, the burning...
AVIVI: ...Of children and women and the kidnapping, Israel sets very clear goals for this war. And the goal is the complete destruction of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, is dismantling completely all their terror capabilities and making sure that never again, never again there will be a terror army in the Gaza Strip. Now, in order...
INSKEEP: How does surrounding Gaza City serve that goal then?
AVIVI: So I'll say what is the bottom line. The bottom line will be conquering the whole Gaza Strip - all of it. The bottom line will be dismantling for many, many months, maybe a year or more, all these terror capabilities that Hamas has built for more than 17 years. And I think that the world would be shocked by what they really build inside Gaza, the ways they utilize the money the world gave them to really build one big underground fortress, which is not only underground, but most of it underground. And we are just at the beginning. We surrounded the Gaza City.
INSKEEP: So it sounds like you're telling me...
AVIVI: Now we are already operating inside.
INSKEEP: Yeah. Yeah. So let's make sure we understand this then. You're saying that surrounding Gaza City is attacking Hamas facilities there, and that that is really a first step, that Israeli troops - you believe as someone who has observed this and knows the Israeli military well, you believe they will ultimately take everything.
AVIVI: Yeah, because if you don't do that, you cannot really manage to fulfill the goals the government set. If you want to completely destroy Hamas, the northern part is the smallest part. Yes, it's a center of gravity. Yes, it's the center of command and also the - I would say the government of Hamas. But Hamas is very dominant and strong also in the center and south of Gaza. And you cannot achieve the goals of war just by conquering and destroying its capabilities in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. So eventually we'll have to also operate in the center and the south of Gaza until we really destroy all the capabilities, all the leaders of the terrorists, all the terrorists and all the infrastructure.
INSKEEP: Just so that I understand what comes next, then, we've been interviewing Israeli officials in Israel and wherever we can find them over the last week. And Israeli officials said on this program it was premature to talk about who runs Gaza after Israel takes it. Another Israeli official a couple of days ago told me that there was a talk of some kind of combination of local and international forces who might control Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu told ABC yesterday that maybe Israeli forces would control it for an indefinite period after the conquest. Who's running Gaza on the day after?
AVIVI: So I think that the first question needs to be what are the security terms? And I think that the government is stating more and more what was evident to me from Day 1. In order to make sure that there will be no buildup of terror infrastructure in the future, you need two things. You need to control the border with Egypt, because today Gaza is connected to Egypt.
AVIVI: They have a common border of something like 10 miles. And through this border, endless amounts of weapons, of know-how, of technologies, of terrorists and money is going in and out. If you want to stop the flow of capabilities into the Gaza Strip, you need to control this border. And the other thing is that you need a full freedom of operation for the IDF the day after to apprehend terrorists in this region.
INSKEEP: OK, that's really interesting. So that suggests that Israel will insist on full freedom of movement to go where it wants to do, strike whatever it wants to strike whoever they try to find to run the place. General, thanks very much. That's very helpful. I appreciate it.
AVIVI: Thank you very much.
INSKEEP: That is retired Israeli Defense Forces Brigadier General Amir Avivi. He is in Tel Aviv. Now, to see that map that we mentioned and to find many views in this conflict, visit NPR's web site, npr.org/mideastupdates. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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