Israel Plans Hamas-Free Zones in Postwar Gaza: FT

A pilot program for potential “humanitarian enclaves” is set to launch soon in the northern Gaza neighborhoods, according to a report.

Israel is preparing to test a new model for postwar Gaza by creating a series of “bubbles” intended to be free from Hamas influence, the Financial Times reported on Monday, citing sources.

Sources familiar with the plan told the outlet that the pilot program for potential “humanitarian enclaves” will soon be launched in the northern Gaza neighborhoods of Atatra, Beit Hanoun, and Beit Lahia.

Under this scheme, the Israeli military would deliver aid from the nearby Western Erez crossing to carefully selected local Palestinians, who would then distribute the aid and gradually take on greater responsibility for civilian governance in the area. Israeli forces would initially be responsible for security, according to the article.

If successful, Israel would then expand the “bubbles” southward to other parts of Gaza in an effort to replace Hamas as the governing authority in the strip.

The “humanitarian bubbles” are reportedly just one element of a larger three-tier postwar plan proposed by the Israeli security establishment and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Under this comprehensive plan, a broad international coalition, including moderate Arab states, would provide the overall diplomatic and financial framework for postwar Gaza.

In practice, the “humanitarian bubbles” would be managed by representatives from the international and Arab coalition, local Palestinian Authority officials, and private contractors and businesspeople.

Several individuals familiar with the initiative indicated that plans also exist to train a local Palestinian force from within Gaza to take over security in the “humanitarian bubbles.” 

However, a former senior Israeli official with knowledge of the planning told FT that similar efforts “were already attempted in three different areas of central and northern Gaza, including with local clans,” adding “they were all either beaten up or killed by Hamas.” 

According to the report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top advisors have insisted that Arab governments will play a significant role in any postwar arrangement, whether through providing diplomatic support, financing, or even peacekeeping forces.

However, sources said that “Arab states will not support reconstruction in Gaza or postwar plans unless Israel takes concrete steps towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.” 

The report noted widespread skepticism regarding the viability of the Israeli plan, with one individual familiar with it calling it a “fantasy” project.