A Palestinian walks through the destruction by the Israeli bombardment in the Nusseirat refugee camp in Gaza Strip, Jan. 16, 2024.

100 days of fighting in Gaza with no end in sight

It’s been 100 days since renewed fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas began on Oct. 7. The World’s host Marco Werman discusses the latest with professor Nathan Brown.

The World

Sunday marked 100 days of fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas since Oct. 7. The war continues unabated with little pressure on either side to end the fighting.

The death toll in Gaza has now surpassed 24,000 people. Meanwhile, of the approximately 250 people taken hostage by Hamas in October, 132 remain in captivity.

The World’s host Marco Werman spoke with Nathan Brown, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University, about the likelihood of a ceasefire and what the next period will bring in Gaza.

Marco Werman: Nathan, let’s start with Oct. 7. Based on what we now know, how unprecedented was this Hamas attack?
Nathan Brown: Well, that Hamas attacked Israel, that it targeted civilians, that was not unprecedented. That they did so on this scale in this coordinated way, and that they took this large number of hostages and that they killed so many people, that is absolutely unprecedented. There’s been nothing in Israeli history like this.
And the Israeli military campaign that followed, there have been numerous rounds of fighting in the past, but the IDF has undertaken something really different from past battles, hasn’t it?
This is something absolutely sustained, involving not just a wholesale invasion of the Gaza Strip but a relocation of the vast majority of its population and the destruction of houses of all kinds of buildings. And really bringing the Gaza Strip close to uninhabitable. Israel went in with an absolutely massive deployment of force and extremely ambitious war aims that, even if they were to succeed, would take months to complete.
Israel’s stated goal remains, you summed it up, to destroy Hamas and the threat to Israel from Gaza, but rockets continue to be launched into Israeli cities and Hamas continues to fight in Gaza. How realistic is Israel’s goal?
At this point, Israel has achieved none of its goals. It hasn’t freed any hostages. It hasn’t destroyed Hamas. And in fact, there may be signs that Hamas is still, in a sense, governing those areas of the Gaza Strip where there are still Palestinians who are living. It is certainly the case that they’ve killed lots of Hamas fighters, and it’s certainly the case that they rendered Gaza close to ungovernable by anybody, but in terms of securing Israel and Israeli lives, it looks to most people like Israel has not really come close to achieving any of its goals. And it’s not even clear that they will be able to do so.
The White House on Sunday, 100 days into this war, said it’s time for Israel to scale back the military campaign. How much influence, Nathan, do you think the Biden administration has with Israel right now?
The limited indications we have is that Israel is preparing to fully press its military campaign, which it began in the north, in the south of the Strip. And the policy pronouncements from the Israeli leadership are about an ongoing Israeli security role, even patrolling the border between Gaza and Egypt, which is not Israeli territory. So, there basically seems to be a way in which the Israeli leadership wants to keep good relations with the United States and won’t confront it publicly on most issues, but really is making its own decisions its own way.
There’s also a big fear, as you know, in Washington, of a regionalization of this war, with fighting erupting well beyond Gaza. I mean, we’ve seen what’s now happening with the Houthis and US ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Do you think a further expansion of the fighting is a likely scenario in the coming weeks?
It’s certainly possible. After Oct. 7, an awful lot of the attention was on whether Hezbollah or whether Iran would join in. And there was a great American effort to deter them, to prevent any escalation at Lebanon or with Iran. In a sense, that seems to have worked, but the focus right now is just as much on Israel. There are Israeli officials who basically say, “we learned a lesson on Oct. 7, and that is you can’t deter the other side, you’ve got to go to them directly.” And so, there are voices in Israel that are talking about widening the conflict. And, of course, what’s happened with the Houthis is another source of regionalization, which, when they target shipping, in a sense, almost challenges an American response. They’re really talking about disrupting world trade, bringing other parties like Saudi Arabia, which has been trying to tamp down the conflict in Yemen, back into the conflict. So, that’s another danger point, which people really weren’t alert to at the beginning.
Given everything you’ve said, Nathan, where do you think things go from here? I mean, is there enough pressure on both sides to end the fighting and figure out what comes next?
No, that’s very, very clear. This fighting is going to go on for a while. And that’s primarily an Israeli decision that says they’ve got these ambitious war aims that are not close to being achieved. So, the war has to go on. And Israel isn’t close to being exhausted. The only pressure in Israel is actually from the families of the hostages, who are saying, “As long as you press the military campaign this way, you’re not going to get our hostages out.” And in fact, Israel has actually even killed some of the hostages in attempts to rescue them. So, that’s really the only source of pressure on Israel right now. Most people, I think, expect the fighting to continue. The Israelis will basically say this is a matter of months, not of hours or days or even weeks. And so the situation that we’ve seen so far is likely to continue well into this current year.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. AP contributed to this report.

Related: LISTEN: Voices from across the globe as the Israel-Hamas war continues to unfold

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