Retired U.S. Gen. Robert Abrams said Israel’s mission to destroy the militant group Hamas while also protecting the lives of Palestinians in Gaza is “nearly impossible,” calling it a “very difficult task.”
“I think it’s going to be what I would consider nearly impossible, to destroy Hamas, to eliminate their capability to do harm to Israel and Israeli people, while simultaneously protecting what some people have estimated as to be a million Palestinians who are in harm’s way [or] they can’t get out of harm’s way,” Abrams said Sunday on ABC News’s “This Week.”
Fighting between Israel and Hamas, the organization that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, has raged on for three weeks since Hamas fighters launched a bloody incursion into Israel, gunning down hundreds of civilians and soldiers across towns. Hamas’s attacks have killed more than 1,400 Israelis, including hundreds of civilians at their homes.
Israeli forces launched a major counteroffensive in Gaza, sending hundreds of airstrikes and several bombs into the territory where 2.3 million Palestinian civilians live. More than 8,000 Palestinians have died so far in the conflict, with more than 20,200 others wounded, the Gaza Health Ministry reported Sunday.
“This is going to be a very difficult task for the Israel Defense Forces, that the defense that Hamas will put up in that very dense urban terrain, unlike anything that we’ve seen in recent years, is going to require some … siege fighting, and simultaneously trying to ensure that the Israelis do not target unwittingly the locations of the hostages. This is going to prove to be a very difficult task and we’ll just have to see how their plan plays out here over the coming days,” Abrams said.
Asked if he thinks the laws of war are being followed, Abrams said, “I think every effort is being made to follow the laws of armed conflict.”
“But each and every time you are going to fire a round, drop a bomb, shoot a rocket, you have to make a military determination with regards to the military necessity behind dropping that bomb and the proportionality associated with what comes from it,” Abrams said. “And each and every one of those requires that sort of very deliberate decision-making to ensure that everyone remains alive with the laws of armed conflict.”
Pointing to Hamas’s notorious tunnel system, Abrams said the urban fight will be “slow” and “methodical.” Last week, Israelis Defense Minister Yoav Gallant similarly said the ground offensive in Gaza will be a long and difficult process.
Tanks and infantry pushed into Gaza over the weekend, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning of a “second stage” in the war, The Associated Press reported. The Israeli military sent multiple raids into Gaza overnight Friday, signaling a looming ground offensive.
More than 1 million Palestinians have been ordered to evacuate their neighborhoods and move south ahead of the expected ground invasion. However, Hamas reportedly has told residents not to leave their homes while many civilians lack the resources to move south.
Israeli officials have also claimed Hamas captured more than 200 individuals since its initial Oct. 7 attack. The militant group released two elderly women last week and an American Israeli mother and her 18-year-old daughter the week prior.