IDF establishes strongholds inside Gaza via BICom
Gaza Strip: Fighting continues at various points inside the northern Gaza Strip.
- According to the IDF, “troops are continuing to eliminate terrorists in close quarter combat and direct aircraft to strike Hamas terrorist infrastructure, weapons depots, observation posts, and command and control centres”.
- “During the combined activities of ground, air and naval forces in the Gaza Strip, over 2,500 terror targets have been struck.”
- Palestinians sources have also reported significant attacks, including in the Zeytun neighbourhood, close to the centre of Gaza City.
- The IDF reportedly struck an ambulance following their assessment that it was being used to transport Hamas fighters.
- Similarly, the New York Times reported Hamas tried to take advantage of the evacuation of the wounded to Egypt to smuggle out its military operatives.
- There were also reports suggesting Hamas had killed Gazan civilians attempting to flee to the safe zone in the south.
- Yesterday, the IDF opened a humanitarian crossing to enable Gaza residents to move south. Hamas attacked the forces at the crossing.
- Again today, the IDF will open the road for four hours to allow traffic from Gaza City to travel the south on the Salah al-Din road.
- On Saturday night, a barrage of rockets was directed towards the greater Tel Aviv area. Overnight there was a lull, but rocket fire resumed again this morning, directed at the Gaza periphery.
Lebanon: Hezbollah leader Nasrallah gave a speech on Friday. Significantly, he gave full credit to Hamas for the October 7 attack and claimed this was not coordinated with Hezbollah or Iran. In doing so, he did not commit Hezbollah to all-out war.
- Instead it has been assessed that Hezbollah will continue to attack along the border, as it has done, without an escalation at this point.
- Defence Minister Gallant warned Nasrallah, “Yahya Sinwar made a mistake and sealed the fate of Hamas and the fate of Gaza. If Nasrallah makes a mistake, he will seal the fate of Lebanon.”
- Despite the warning, attacks along the northern border have continued. Rockets were launched from Lebanon towards border communities and anti-tank missiles were fired towards Metula.
- In each instance, the IDF returned fire to the sources. They also targeted a Hezbollah military infrastructure
Context: Despite the progress, senior officials continue to warn that it will take weeks and months to complete the mission.
- The advances made on the ground allowed Israeli and foreign defence correspondents to embed themselves and enter into Gaza to see the fighting for themselves.
- Although the IDF has established static positions and now surrounds Gaza City, their positions remain vulnerable to attack by terror cells exiting from tunnel shafts with anti-tank missiles, mortars, armed drones and sniper fire.
- In order to complete the mission, they will need to target the underground tunnels network.
- On Saturday night Defence Minister Gallant said he was pleased with the progress of the ground campaign so far and added that 12 Hamas battalion commanders have been killed.
- There were four more confirmed IDF casualties from fighting inside Gaza, taking the total since the ground incursion to at least 27. Overall, the IDF confirmed 345 soldiers have been killed since October 7.
- The number of confirmed hostages inside Gaza also rose to 241.
- In parallel to the military campaign, Israel hosted US Secretary of State Blinken on Friday, before he then proceeded to Jordan for talks with a number of Arab counterparts.
- On his Israel stop, Blinken reinforced the US’s ironclad support of Israel, but also referred to US concerns over the conduct of the war. “We need to be doing more to protect Palestinian civilians,” he said.
- He reiterated US support for humanitarian pauses to the fighting to allow for the entry of aid to the Gaza Strip, including fuel.
- The US recommendations are grounded in its view that Israel has a limited time before international support for the war begins to wane. The Biden administration is also facing domestic pressure for its support of Israel from the left wing of the Democrat Party.
- However, a senior Israeli official reassured Yediot Ahronot that “the Americans have told us explicitly they expect Hamas to no longer exist at the end of the war.”
- From Israel, Blinken proceeded to Amman, where he met with Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, Qatari, and Emirati diplomats and a senior official from the Palestinian Authority.
- Blinken pushed back on pressure to implement a ceasefire, saying that “a ceasefire would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did.”
Looking ahead: The two main military objectives remain destroying the tunnel network and targeting the most senior Hamas commanders.
- The Israeli government is under pressure from within to do more to secure the release of the hostages.
- Externally, pressure is expected to grow for at least a pause to allow more humanitarian relief, however IDF commanders are wary that such a pause will be exploited by Hamas.