Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that the period of intense conflict with Hamas in Gaza is nearing its conclusion. However, amid the absence of publicly disclosed plans for the next phase of Israel’s military campaign, both Palestinians and Israelis fear that the next chapter in the conflict could usher in a prolonged period of insurgency-style warfare and indefinite occupation.

Israeli military leaders are expected to soon declare the conclusion of the primary ground offensive in Gaza, particularly in Rafah, the southernmost city. Prime Minister Netanyahu has underscored that the conflict will persist until Israel achieves what he terms as “total victory”—the complete elimination of Hamas as both a civilian and military entity. Yet, despite these objectives, which were supposed to be achieved by January, the campaign has encountered delays and ongoing hostilities persist in areas purportedly under Israeli control.

Recent reports indicate a deadly toll, with at least 16 people killed in an Israeli airstrike on a school in central Gaza, according to the Palestinian health ministry. The strike, which also injured more than 50 people, targeted gunmen in the vicinity, although Israel’s military asserts precautions were taken to minimize civilian casualties.

Despite intermittent signs of progress, talks on ceasefires and hostage releases have repeatedly stalled. Moreover, the Israeli government has not yet unveiled comprehensive post-war plans for Gaza, prompting skepticism and criticism domestically and internationally. Observers familiar with the plans describe them as unrealistic and a means to buy time rather than offer substantive solutions.

Public statements from Israeli officials and leaked details suggest that two army divisions will remain stationed in Gaza as part of the next phase of Israel’s strategy. One division will secure the newly established Netzarim corridor, dividing the northern and southern halves of the strip, while the other will be deployed along the Philadelphi corridor on the Gaza-Egypt border to disrupt Hamas’s primary supply routes and tunnel networks.

These troops are expected to conduct frequent raids on suspected Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets across Gaza, mirroring a strategy known as “mowing the grass,” previously employed in the West Bank. Israel has also explored the formation of a security force involving regional Arab states like Egypt and the UAE, although support for such initiatives remains lukewarm among regional diplomats.

Plans also include expanding the buffer zone along the separation fence to approximately two-thirds of a mile (1 km) across Gaza, alongside other military-controlled corridors. This expansion, coupled with previous land seizures for military purposes, is estimated to encompass 32% of Gaza’s territory, including vital agricultural lands crucial for sustaining the population.

Efforts to reintroduce the Palestinian Authority (PA) to govern Gaza, following its expulsion by Hamas in 2007, have faltered. The PA, lacking political legitimacy and facing internal challenges, has shown reluctance to return under Israeli military auspices. Instead, Israel is considering reinstating localized governance structures led by non-Hamas affiliated figures, aiming to manage aid distribution and, potentially, expand into civil governance functions if successful.

However, skepticism persists regarding the effectiveness of such measures, given previous attempts and Hamas’s control over civil society in Gaza. Analysts emphasize the complexity and challenges of any alternative governance model without substantial changes in the broader political landscape.

In conclusion, the path forward remains uncertain and fraught with challenges for Israel and Gaza. The absence of clear, sustainable solutions underscores the difficulty of resolving the conflict and establishing lasting peace in the region.