Israeli Forces Say Dozens Killed in Al-Shifa Hospital Raid: Gaza War Live News

Former Israeli security officials are split on how to address growing anarchy in the northern Gaza Strip, but many agree that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lack of a workable plan for how the enclave will be governed makes it impossible to chart a path toward a more stable future.

Mr. Netanyahu has brought forward a vague plan that calls for Israeli security control over Gaza after the war. He has also outright rejected U.S. calls for an overhauled Palestinian Authority — which now has limited governing powers in the West Bank — to govern the enclave.

But there are no simple options. Many Palestinians see the Palestinian Authority as tainted by corruption and mismanagement, and it is mistrusted by many in Mr. Netanyahu’s government. Some politicians and retired Israeli military officials have called for Israel to occupy Gaza — at least temporarily — but that is widely opposed by the international community and would put enormous limits on Palestinian freedoms. How Hamas and other factions confront an occupation would also pose a significant challenge.

Some former Israeli officials say that Mr. Netanyahu must introduce a governing body now in areas where the army has pulled out in order to block Hamas from reconstituting itself and to prevent chaos from proliferating. They argue that Israel will likely have to continue returning to parts of Gaza that it has left to fight resurgent Hamas militants in the near term, but they said that without a more comprehensive plan Israeli soldiers would be left fighting a protracted war of attrition.

“It’s a huge mistake” not to have a governing plan now, said Gen. Gadi Shamni, a retired commander of the army’s Gaza division. “It might take months or even years to create a successful alternative, but we need to start moving things in that direction.”

“We will continue doing these back and forth operations much longer than necessary,” he said.

In February, Mr. Netanyahu called for Israeli military control over Gaza and for the “administration of civilian affairs and the enforcement of public order” to be based on “local stakeholders with managerial experience.” Many experts interpreted the plan as an effort to procrastinate on serious action.

General Shamni said that Mr. Netanyahu’s stance reflected his unwillingness to let the Palestinian Authority take over governance in Gaza. His government depends on hard-line coalition partners who are opposed to the authority’s aspirations for Palestinian statehood.

“What’s most important to him is his political survival,” General Shamni said.

Israeli soldiers in the central Gaza Strip, during a tour for journalists escorted by the Israeli military last month.Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Other retired Israeli officials have argued that the Palestinian Authority is too weak to govern Gaza but have agreed that the status quo of leaving areas ungoverned is untenable.

Instead, Israel should fully occupy Gaza first and then try to introduce an alternative governing body, they argue. Michael Milshtein, a former Israeli military intelligence officer, said that a new Israeli military raid on Al Shifa this week, a hospital complex Israel had first stormed in November, showed the need for a bigger Israeli security presence in the north.

“People are asking: Didn’t we already clean Shifa? We very much didn’t,” Mr. Milshtein said. “If you don’t remain there, within five minutes, they come back,” he said, referring to Hamas.

The Gazan Health Ministry has condemned the Israeli raid as a “crime against health institutions,” and humanitarian organizations expressed alarm over the situation at the complex, which, along with the surrounding area, had been sheltering 30,000 patients, medical workers and displaced civilians. Witnesses described a terrifying scene during the raid.

Israel said it had detained scores of people and killed dozens of militants, while Hamas has claimed that it caused “deaths and injuries” to Israeli forces.

Fully occupying Gaza would require Israel to increase its forces in Gaza and dedicate more resources to providing services to Palestinians. It would also defy international calls on Israel, including by President Biden, not to take such action.

For Palestinians, it would mean that the Israeli military would remain in full control of Gaza’s cities and entry and exit points.

Hamas would likely suffer under such a scenario with less room to maneuver because Israeli soldiers would be able to clamp down on the group more easily, but it is likely Hamas would mount an insurgency.

Mr. Milshtein argued that extending full Israeli control over Gaza was the only way to set the stage for another entity to take over.

“We don’t need more and more limited operations in Gaza, we need to occupy the whole area, and only after that, we can build a new arrangement,” he said.