Friday Briefing: U.S. Urges Israel to Scale Back Its War

The Biden administration has told the Israeli government that it wants Israel to end its large-scale ground campaign in the Gaza Strip around the end of the year and transition to more targeted actions against Hamas, four senior U.S. officials said.

The U.S. envisions Israel using smaller groups of elite forces that would move in and out of population centers in Gaza, carrying out more precise missions to find and kill Hamas leaders, rescue hostages and destroy tunnels. In response to the American advice, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement saying that “Israel will continue the war until we complete all of its goals.”

Here’s the latest.

The call for a change in tactics comes as differences between the U.S. and Israel have widened in recent weeks as the conditions in Gaza turn catastrophic. For more on the situation there, we spoke with Raja Abdulrahim, a Middle East correspondent for The Times.

What are you hearing from Palestinians in Gaza right now?

Life is terrible for Palestinians in Gaza. As journalists, when we talk to them, it’s so hard for us to even know what to say anymore. But what people are telling me these days is that they’re just clinging to life. Some people have told me that they would rather just have a nuclear bomb come and take them all out because the situation has gotten so desperate, and they don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. So it’s just an incredibly grim place.

They also feel like the entire world has abandoned them. Even people who seemed to have had hope and were very strong early on — it’s just worn them down because people have been displaced time and time again, and nowhere is safe. And that just keeps being more true.

Is there a story from the last few months that has particularly resonated with you?

I was talking to a doctor yesterday who works in a hospital. He told me that a little girl had come in, and she was alone. Her entire family had been killed, and strangers had come and dropped her off at the hospital. There’s actually a term for this now that they’ve started using in Gazan hospitals, which is “unknown trauma child.” They write it on the child’s body and then hope that a family member will come along.

This doctor lost his youngest son in an Israeli airstrike, and has two other children. He says that he goes home and sits with his two surviving children, and thinks, “What if they become another unknown trauma child?” Because his fear now is that he and his wife will be killed, and his children will be alone in the world.

How are Gazans thinking about the future?

There’s huge fear of a permanent displacement. Particularly because the vast majority of Gazans either fled their homes in 1948 when the state of Israel was established, or are the descendants of those who fled their homes and haven’t been allowed to go back. So this experience and history of permanent displacement is very strong.

And this fear is twofold. Gazans are afraid that they will be permanently displaced inside Gaza, as they are being corralled into a smaller, smaller area. And there have been things said by Israeli leaders, military commanders and former leaders that they do plan to essentially shrink Gaza — in other words, take over some land. So that fear of not being allowed home is definitely a real one.

But Gazans also fear that they will be displaced elsewhere, outside. Even very early on, when Israel first put out evacuation orders, a fear of being displaced in the Sinai Desert was something that people were talking about. For Gazans, it feels as if they’re being pushed farther and farther south. At a certain point, they feel like, Well, where else can we go? Even now, there are people who have not left their homes in northern Gaza who say, “If I’m going to die, let me die in my home. I don’t want to be permanently displaced.”

So there’s not a lot of hope for the future, and some people definitely expect things to get even worse, both in Gaza and the West Bank. Some analysts and commentators say this will light a fire under the idea of the two-state solution. But I don’t necessarily hear that from most Palestinians. From what they see, everything has very much regressed and has gotten even worse.


European Union leaders agreed today to officially open negotiations for Ukraine to join the bloc. The news comes at a crucial time for President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was unable to secure billions in U.S. military aid during a visit to Washington this week.

“Wonka,” a new film based on Roald Dahl’s 1964 best seller, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” is about the first business ventures of the young Willy (played by Timothée Chalamet). It’s a bright, light movie — in palette and temperament — that’s stuffed with talented performers who seem to be having a pleasant time, even when pretending to be meanies.

Its most distinctive quality is that it’s nice, our critic Manohla Dargis writes, with scarcely a hint of the misanthropy that burbles through Dahl’s book. It’s also “younger, sweeter and significantly less weird than his prior screen incarnations.”

Read the review.

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