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Wary of World Opinion, US Leaders Press Jerusalem on War Conduct as Israel Holds Firm

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JERUSALEM, Israel – U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met Thursday with Israeli political and military leaders, as the U.S. is reportedly pressing Israel to shift its military operations to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties while acknowledging Israel's need to defeat Hamas.

So far, Israel is not backing down on its military campaign.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Sullivan for U.S. support in supplying munitions, blocking United Nations attempts to impose a ceasefire in Gaza and for Washington's assistance in returning the hostages.

But Sullivan leaned on Israeli leaders to shift from all-out war against Hamas through airstrikes and ground assaults in Gaza to more targeted operations. This, came amid a growing rift between Israel and the U.S. over civilian casualties, wrapping up the war, and the future of Gaza.

"He (Sullivan) did talk about possible transitioning from what we would call high-intensity operations, which is what we're seeing them do now, to lower intensity operations sometime in the near future," explained National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby, who added, "But I don't want to put a time stamp on it, and I think you can understand that the last thing we want to do is telegraph to Hamas what they're likely to face in coming weeks and months."

President Biden declared, “I want (Israel) to be focused on how to save civilian lives – not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful.” 

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Today, Sullivan meets with the leaders of the Palestinian Authority to discuss its role in the future of Gaza and the region.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said security is first and foremost in future negotiations.

"I truly believe in a horizon of peace. I believe it's feasible," Herzog said. "But before getting there, we have to deal with some core issues, the behavioral mode of our partners, and how do we secure the safety and well-being of Israelis and Palestinians."

Israel's Ambassador to the U.K., Tzipi Hotovely, went a step further, telling British broadcaster Sky News there's no negotiating with Hamas and no chance for a two-state solution as laid out 30 years ago in the Oslo Accords.

"I think it's about time for the world to realize that the Oslo paradigm failed on the 7th of October, and we need to build a new one," Hotovely stated. "The reason the Oslo Accords failed is because the Palestinians never wanted to have a state next to Israel. They want to have a state from the river to the sea."

As the fighting continues, the IDF says dozens of Hamas terrorists are surrendering.

Chief IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari remarked, "Instead of pictures that we were used to seeing of military parades, we saw pictures of dozens of terrorists – today included – coming out of their hiding place in the hospital, in Jabaliya, with raised weapons and giving themselves in for interrogation by the IDF forces, and the General Security Service."

Meanwhile, a heightened alert in Europe as German and Dutch officials arrested four suspected terrorists, alleged to be members of Hamas, in plots to attack Jewish institutions.

At about the same time, in an unrelated case, Denmark and The Netherlands arrested four others suspected of terror-related offenses.

In Israel, people celebrated the last day of Hanukkah with prayers and memorials for the hostages. In Jerusalem's Old City, Hanukkiahs were lit for each of the more than 130 hostages. Jerusalem Rabbi Moshe Zeldman said lighting the candles is like sending up a flare – an S.O.S. to God:

"I need you to come to me, to lift me up, because sometimes I'm just so overwhelmed, I can't get it together by my own," the rabbi said.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel fulltime for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and