Airstrikes and preparations for ground invasion continue via BICom
In the south: Intensive Israeli air strikes on Hamas targets in the Strip continued yesterday. 250 targets were hit during the day, and a further 50 sites overnight. With a particular focus on Gaza City, targets included Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad military headquarters, observation posts, and several rocket launching sites.
- The IDF confirmed that it had killed Muataz Eid, a senior Hamas commander and the head of national security for the terror group’s southern district. In addition, the IDF have released a list of 5 other senior Hamas officials killed.
- Ahead of an anticipated ground invasion, the IAF has taken IDF ground commanders on reconnaissance sorties over the Strip in recent days, allowing for up-to-date birds eye views of the terrain.
- Contradictory reports suggest that Israel has agreed to a temporary ceasefire this morning, to allow for the re-opening of the Rafah Crossing to allow foreign passport holders to exit Gaza and aid to enter. However, this has been denied by the prime minister’s office.
- As Israel announced that at least 120 families have been informed that their relatives are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, Prime Minister Netanyahu met last night with representatives of the families. This morning an IDF spokesperson updated the number of hostages thought taken to 199.
- After a nine-hour pause, rocket sirens sounded once more in Israel’s south this morning. Overall, over 6,600 rockets have been fired into Israel.
In the north: This morning, the IDF announced the evacuation of civilians from 28 communities up to 2 kilometres from the Lebanese border, following repeated rocket and missile attacks launched on Israel’s north from southern Lebanon. Five attempts at infiltration have also been made.
- The first Israeli civilian casualty on the norther border was a 40-year-old man killed yesterday in an anti-tank fire directed at the residential neighbourhood in Shtula.
- An IDF soldier was also killed yesterday by an anti-tank missile fired near the border moshav of Zarit.
- 6 Israelis killed have now been killed on Israel's northern border in the last week.
Biden interview: In an interview with CBS, President Biden affirmed his belief that Israel can accomplish its war aims alone, without the need for US troops. “Israel has one of the finest fighting forces,” he said. “I guarantee we’re going to provide them everything they need.”
- Israel, he said, had “to go after Hamas… Hamas is a bunch of cowards. They’re hiding behind the civilians.” Hamas also “engaged in barbarism that is as consequential as the Holocaust.”
- Biden confirmed that the US remains in talks with Egypt about establishing a humanitarian corridor “to get these children and women out” of Gaza.
- “I’m confident that there’s going to be an ability for the innocents in Gaza to be able to have access to medicine and food and water,” he said.
- Yesterday, Israel announced that water had been restored to southern parts of the Strip, following conversations between Biden and Netanyahu.
- President Biden warned against an Israeli re-occupation of Gaza. He also acknowledged that steps towards a two state solution could not be pursued whilst Hamas remains, but that a “path to a Palestinian state” must be a future aim. Jerusalem, he said, “understands that significant portions of the Palestinian people do not share the views of Hamas and Hezbollah.”
- Asked whether the US could maintain simultaneous support for both Israeli and Ukrainian war efforts, Biden said: “we’re the United States of America for God’s sake, the most powerful nation… We can take care of both of these and still maintain our overall international defence.”
Context: So far, the campaign has focused on an intense bombing campaign again Hamas military infrastructure. However, with many Hamas military assets understood to buried in tunnels underground, at some point a ground incursion will also be necessary.
- The army is preparing for a ground incursion. It has been gathering intelligence on Hamas’s fortifications and preparing operational battle plans.
- In an effort to avoid civilian casualties inside Gaza, Israel continues to encourage northern Gazans to move south.
Israel’s war cabinet that includes the prime minister, defence minister, Ministers Gantz, Eisenkot and Dermer have clarified the war’s objectives:
- Toppling the Hamas regime and destroying its military capabilities.
- Removing the threat of terrorism from the Gaza Strip.
- Maximum effort to return the hostages.
- Defending the state’s borders and its citizens.
- While Israel is currently focused on the Gaza Strip, they are acutely aware of the more significant threat posed by Hezbollah in the north.
- Hezbollah’s attack yesterday, the first time against civilian targets in northern Israel further raises the tension.
- Hezbollah is also threating to intensify their attacks if there is a ground incursion into Gaza.
- There is a live policy debate over whether to continue to respond to Hezbollah aggression as isolated incidents (returning fire to its source) and avoid a wider confrontation. Alternatively, with IDF preparedness at its height, whether this is the right time to target their elite Radwan forces that are gathered close to the border.
- During his visit to Israel over the weekend, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin is thought to have warned Israeli officials against an escalation against Hezbollah at this time. In return, Austin pledged to send US aircraft and pilots to actively engage in defence of Israel were Hezbollah to strike first.
- Both the US secretaries of state and defence visited Israel last week and Netanyahu and President Biden have spoken five times since the attack last Saturday.
- Residents of the north are fearful of a similar type of invasion as occurred on the Gaza Strip periphery, though Hezbollah is considered an even more formidable military power.
- Israel is also concerned that Iran has increased efforts to deliver advanced weapons to Hezbollah, hence the Syrian reports of attacks against their airports and targeting of Iranian weapon convoys.
- The Israeli military doctrine prepares for a multi front war, but focusing on one front is clearly a more manageable task.
Looking ahead: The aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip is expected to continue. With an anticipated land incursion, the IDF may still want to display an element of surprise regarding the timing and nature of the attack.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu has invited US President Biden to visit Israel in the next few days as a show of solidarity.
- Qatar is said to remain engaged in negotiations with Hamas aimed at the release of hostages, with proposals being made to release foreign nationals and dual nationals as a priority.