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Israeli Military Leaders See Danger in Lack of a Plan to Govern Gaza

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As Hamas reappears in places Israel's troops had cleared, Israeli commanders say their government's failure to plan for stabilizing and administering Gaza will leave a perilous power vacuum.

Smoke rising after a strike in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday.Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

With Israeli troops returning to clear Hamas for the second or third time from parts of northern Gaza, and fighting farther south in Rafah, too, Israel's government has found itself confronting more vocal discontent from an important constituency: its own military leaders.

Current and former senior military officers have begun to argue more openly that because the government has failed to roll out a plan for what follows the fighting in Gaza, Israeli troops are being forced — in the eighth month of the war — to battle again for areas of the territory where Hamas fighters have reappeared.

Two Israeli officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid professional repercussions, said some generals and members of the war cabinet were especially frustrated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to develop and announce a process for building an alternative to Hamas to govern Gaza.

There was little expectation, among officials or experts, that a new government would be formed while combat raged. But "clear, hold and build" is the widely accepted practice for fighting an insurgency. And to a growing number of critics, Israel appears to be simply stuck in clearing mode, increasing the risks for Israeli soldiers and Gazan civilians while cease-fire talks remain stalemated.

The two officials said Mr. Netanyahu's unwillingness to have a serious conversation about the latter phases of the Gaza campaign — the "day after" the fight — has made it easier for Hamas to reconstitute itself in places such as Jabaliya in northern Gaza.

Israel first attacked Hamas's ranks there in October — and returned this week with another air and ground assault.

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