The allies are reportedly discussing the potential deployment of an international force in the Palestinian enclave
US and Israeli officials are mulling an international peacekeeping force for the Gaza Strip should Israel successfully remove Hamas from power, Bloomberg reported, suggesting American troops could take part in the deployment.
The two countries have been “exploring options” for Gaza’s future as Israel escalates its ground assault on the Palestinian enclave, including several different peacekeeping arrangements, officials familiar with the discussions told the outlet on Tuesday.
“One option would grant temporary oversight to Gaza to countries from the region, backed by troops from the US, UK, Germany and France. Ideally, it would also include representation from Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates,” Bloomberg reported.
While the officials stressed that the conversations are still in an early stage, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hinted at the issue in recent comments to lawmakers, suggesting Washington is deeply involved in the planning.
“We can’t have a reversion to the status quo with Hamas running Gaza. We also can’t have – and the Israelis start with this proposition themselves – Israel running or controlling Gaza,” he said at a Tuesday Senate hearing. “Between those shoals are a variety of possible permutations that we’re looking at very closely now, as are other countries.”
Though Blinken did not elaborate on those possibilities, officials told Bloomberg that they also include the creation of a peacekeeping force modeled on the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, under which the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) monitor areas of the Sinai Peninsula. The Israeli government believes that idea is “worthy of consideration,” one official said.
Under a third arrangement, the United Nations would be granted “temporary governance” of Gaza, although Israeli officials are reportedly less enthusiastic about the plan, viewing it as “impractical.”
In announcing Israel’s ongoing ground operation in the Palestinian enclave, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the country was seeking to “destroy Hamas” and create a new “security regime.” He emphasized that Israel must not be responsible for “day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip,” suggesting it would seek to hand off governance to a third party.
US President Joe Biden is hesitant to place “even a small contingent of American troops in harm’s way,” and is still far from a final decision, according to Bloomberg. Though the White House has discussed the need to establish a sovereign Palestinian state after the current conflict, exactly how to achieve that goal “has barely featured in discussions” among US officials.
The latest bout of violence in Gaza erupted following a deadly Hamas terrorist attack on October 7, which killed some 1,400 Israelis, most of them civilians. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have carried out heavy airstrikes on the territory in the weeks since, leaving more than 8,000 dead, and have gradually stepped up a major ground attack, which officials say could go on for months.