Israel's anticipated ground invasion of Gaza has been delayed for several reasons. One major factor is the effort to secure the release of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas during the October 7 terrorist attacks. While some hostages have been freed, many are believed to be held in underground tunnels in Gaza. The Biden administration has advised Israel to delay the invasion to allow for negotiations and humanitarian aid deliveries. President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu have discussed efforts to secure the release of all remaining hostages, including US citizens.
US officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, have also urged Israel to halt their offensive to provide advice on military actions and discuss American arms shipments. The US military is making preparations, deploying air defense systems in the region in anticipation of being targeted by militant groups once the ground invasion begins.
Another reason for the delay is the concern about a possible wider regional war. Allies of Israel are mindful of tensions with Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia group, which could attack Israeli forces from Lebanon. Other militias are also active in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. The fear of opening multiple fronts in a conflict has led to caution in launching the ground offensive.
Political pressures and the need for careful decision-making also contribute to the delay. Prime Minister Netanyahu, already facing political instability, has not yet settled on an exit plan for Israeli ground forces in Gaza. The intelligence and policy failures leading to the October 7 attacks have put Israeli leaders under scrutiny, and they must make careful choices to satisfy both their allies and their country.
The timing of the ground offensive remains uncertain, as Netanyahu has not provided a timeframe and has emphasized the need to prioritize the safety of Israeli soldiers. The decision will be made by Israel's war cabinet.