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It’s the 18th day of war since Hamas attacked Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, and the possibility of a ground invasion of Gaza still looms.
Civilians in northern parts of Gaza and bordering Israeli towns have already been ordered to evacuate in anticipation of a ground war. Hamas, a terrorist organization responsible for the killing of at least 1,400 Israelis, also took more than 200 hostages during the attack.
But an official from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office told CNN on Friday that the possibility of a ground invasion isn’t going away.
“That (military) pressure isn’t going to go because they were released,” the official said. “It won’t change the mission, which is to dismantle Hamas.”
Hamas is playing ‘wicked psychological game,’ says Utah law professor in Israel
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby did not outright respond to whether the reports about the U.S. guiding Israel’s military moves were true.
“It’s our view that the Israeli Defense Forces ... need to decide for themselves how they’re going to conduct operations. We’re not in the business of dictating terms to them and we’re certainly not going to be in the business here from the White House of previewing any future operations one way or another,” said Kirby in a press briefing on Monday. “That would be inappropriate.”
Amos N. Guiora, a law professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, who is currently in Jerusalem, told the Deseret News that Hamas is playing “a wicked psychological game” — releasing two American hostages on Friday, and two other hostages on Monday while not allowing direct communication with Israel.
“Biden can say to (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), ‘Bibi, don’t go in because you’ll get more hostages released,’” said Guiora.
Guiora said he believes Netanyahu also has a hard time making decisions, a trait he has been accused of by others.
The Israeli Defense Forces have indicated that it is ready for a ground invasion with the goal of eliminating Hamas, according to The Times of Israel. But the timeline of such an attack is uncertain.
To Chuck Freilich, a former deputy national security adviser in Israel and a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, there isn’t a delay in the ground offensive, as Israel works to reduce damage while preparing its military for such an undertaking.
“This is a momentous decision for Israel, and it must absolutely get it right,” Freilich told ABC News. “This time, the stakes are so high.”
Biden’s connections to Israel guide his administration's strategy
Guiora said that while ripping out Hamas seems like a good idea, the hostages can become collateral damage, which makes the situation complicated.
“Biden is saving Israel from Israel,” he said, adding that the president “understands the need to whack the guys from Hamas who committed war crimes” but he is also “super, super sensitive to the humanitarian needs.”
Biden, in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, exemplified this sensitivity, saying that the U.S. will advocate for “the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and to self-determination.”
“The actions of Hamas terrorists don’t take that right away,” he said.
The professor said he thinks Biden may be the last American president to have a deep understanding of the Holocaust. The president previously revealed that he took all his children and grandchildren to Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp, to teach them about the Holocaust.
Biden has already spoken to the two American hostages, a mother and a daughter, who were released on Friday.
“It is literally an hour-by-hour effort here at the White House and at the State Department to find out where these folks are and to try to make the effort to get them out and get them back,” said Kirby.