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Israel is prepared for a long military struggle against Hamas, with the war in Gaza expected to last “four to six months”, and the country is arming more civilians to ward off future attacks, a senior Israeli politician said on Wednesday.
“It is going to take time. We understand that. We believe it is going to take about four months to six months for a such a war [to end],” Sharren Haskel, a member of the Knesset from the National Unity Party who sits on the foreign affairs and national security committees, told The National.
The conflict is in its fourth week and is seeing ground troops press deep into the Palestinian enclave, with mounting casualties on both sides.
“Israel has the money, capability and economic patience for this war,” Ms Haskel said. “We will get through this.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel's war in Gaza would be long but victorious.
“We are in a tough war. It will be a long war,” he said in a statement in which he also mourned the loss of a growing number of soldiers. “I promise to all citizens of Israel: we will get the job done. We will press ahead until victory.”
Fifteen soldiers have died in battle since Israeli forces launched the second phase of the war in Gaza with a ground invasion, according to the military.
Mr Netanyahu has ruled out international calls for a ceasefire and vowed to wipe out Hamas, which launched a brutal attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of 1,400 people and the taking of at least 240 hostages.
Since October 7, more than 8,500 people have been killed by Israeli air strikes and shelling in Gaza. An Israeli air strike on Jabalia, Gaza's largest refugee camp, killed at least 50 and injured 150 more overnight on Tuesday.
The Israeli military said the strike killed Hamas leader Ibrahim Biari.
Ms Haskel, who was also the former deputy Knesset speaker, said Israel has the financial muscle to fund the long war as it is focused on wiping out what she called an “ISIS-like enemy” on the border.
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said that the direct cost of the war is about 1 billion shekels ($246 million) and that the current budget would be revised.
Last week, S&P Global downgraded Israel's economic outlook from to “stable” to “negative”.
10,000 Israelis apply for permits for guns
The war in Gaza has contributed to the further militarisation of Israeli society, after authorities relaxed rules for citizens to own firearms.
Ms Haskel said requests for firearms from Israeli private citizens have doubled or even tripled since the Knesset's National Security Committee relaxed requirements on October 15.
“We have received more than 10,000 requests from private citizens just last week, whereas the average number we get in a year used to be 5,000,” she said.
Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, of the radical right-wing Jewish Power party, said he aims to arm an additional 400,000 citizens eligible to carry firearms.
Mr Ben-Gvir's comments, part of his long-term plans to create a National Guard that has been described as a private militia by critics, prompted the US to warn Israel that it would stop sending American guns.
Defending the policy, Ms Haskel said if civilians and first responders had rifles and M-16s on October 7, they would have been able to better defend themselves against Hamas's attack.
“Some of them were armed only with handguns. If they will be armed with M-16s, the scene would have looked much different,” she said.
“We are people who face serious threats. And time after time, we have to join forces to defeat our enemy. We have to make sure that this will never happen again.”
On the massive security lapse that allowed the October 7 attack, the politician said there will be a thorough investigation “the day after we won this war”.
“Now the resources are focused on fighting this war and defeating Hamas.”
Armed units in every border town
Ms Haskel said that every Israeli town in border areas will have a first response team armed with M-16 rifles.
“The civilians are allowed to have only hand guns while police forces and first responders are given M-16s,” she said.
Ruling out the threat of private militias posing a security threat, she said Israel has a different gun culture to other countries, as every adult has served in the army and is well trained in weapons.
She said the current regulation has only reduced the required level of military training for owning a gun from 7 to 3, so that more people can acquire firearms.
“People understand our military values of using guns to defend lives,” said Ms Haskel.