Gaza strategy

Petraeus urges Israeli war cabinet to shift approach in Gaza war

The retired general spoke on Wednesday at the Qatar Economic Forum in Doha

Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Former CIA Director and retired US General David H. Petraeus speaks at a special event of the Kyiv Security Forum, Kyiv, Ukraine, September 05, 2023 For security reasons, the event was held in the underground parking lot of a Kyiv hotel

Retired Gen. David Petraeus, speaking on Wednesday at the Qatar Economic Forum in Doha, said he was privately urging Israel’s war cabinet to shift not only its tactical approach in Gaza, but also its messaging to civilians in Gaza.

Petraeus, who now serves as chairman of the investment firm KKR, suggested setting up a civilian zone in the north of Gaza around which the Israel Defense Forces would operate.

Petraeus, who commanded the multinational coalition in Iraq, added that Israel must shift how it communicates about military operations to civilians in Gaza, referencing how U.S. forces presented the 2006 surge in Iraq as beneficial to the lives of Iraqis in the long term. 

“Before we went into Fallujah … or Ramadi or Baqubah or Mosul or parts of Baghdad, we would tell the people in advance that, ‘We are going to make your lives better by getting Al-Qaida out of your lives, and we will secure you from them.’ And we literally created what we called gated communities,” Petraeus said. 

“Now, let me note that Israel, the situation they face is more difficult than Fallujah, Ramadi and Baqubah all put together because of the 350 miles of subterranean infrastructure that they have. It makes it very, very difficult because of the density of the population, [having] high-rises, not small buildings and so on, but the principle is still the same,” he continued. “You have to clear and hold and keep the enemy out of the people.”

Petraeus equated Hamas to the Islamic State, calling the organization “an irreconcilable extremist group that I believe does need to be destroyed, but how you do that matters a great deal.”

“I would welcome seeing a commitment that we are going to make your lives better, civilians in Gaza. The way we’re going to do that is we’re going to clear the enemy out of your neighborhoods and we’re then going to seal off those neighborhoods and give you biometric I.D. cards. We’re going to flood them full of humanitarian assistance. We’re going to restore basic services, and we’re going to aggressively rebuild all the damage that has been done in the course of this particular war,” he said. 

“But the latter two elements of this are lacking,” Petraeus continued. “And so they have had to go back into Al-Shifa hospital, which I felt they should have held on to in the first place, and turned it into a great medical center to take care of the people.”

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