Israel says it will destroy Hamas. But who will govern Gaza?

People sell vegetables at the Nuseirat Market near buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, Monday, Oct 23, 2023. [Samar Abu Elouf/The New York Times]

As Israeli soldiers have massed to enter the Gaza Strip in force, the defense minister has promised them, "You see Gaza now from a distance; you will soon see it from inside."

Yet despite this vow from the minister, Yoav Gallant, it is not clear when Israel will mount a ground invasion. And if the government appears hesitant to enter Gaza - more than two weeks since the Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 Israelis - there are good reasons to be.

What lies ahead is a kind of sustained urban warfare that the country's military forces have not encountered for nearly a decade, and in pursuit of a political end that remains unclear aside from vanquishing Hamas, which controls Gaza, so that it can never again threaten Israeli citizens.

By itself, that is a tall order that will require the Israelis to establish control over Gaza for themselves, and one which will...

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