IDF operating across Gaza Strip, RAF to help in search for hostages via BICom
Gaza Strip: The IDF has continued to expand its ground operations, targeting Hamas strongholds.
- In northern Gaza, troops have continued their campaign against Hamas battalions in Jabalya and Shajaiya. They are considered large and powerful Hamas strongholds. In additions, hundreds of Hamas fighters fled there during the pause from other strongholds that the IDF had already conquered.
- Over Sunday night, the IDF attacked approximately 200 Hamas targets.
- The ground battles have also began on the outskirts of Khan Yunis in the south.
- In parallel, the IDF has continued to call on civilians to evacuate areas due to be targeted. The IDF has dropped leaflets, sent text messages and even called residents’ phones. In addition, the IDF is using an interactive “evacuation map”, which divides the Strip into 2,300 zones, meant to help guide the civilian population to safety.
- It is unclear to what extent the residents are heeding these calls to evacuate. So far there has been only a slow flow of people leaving Khan Yunis
- Even in the north, despite significant IDF warning, there remains a civilian population that did not move to the south and stayed in both Jabalya and Shajaiya, posing further challenges.
- On Sunday night, the IDF announced that the commander of Hamas’s Shati Battalion, Haitham Khuwajari, had been killed. According to the IDF, he ordered Hamas terrorists into Israeli territory on October 7. Khuwajari was also in charge of Hamas’s security activity in Shifa Hospital and was in command of the fighting against IDF troops in the Shati camp.
- Also over the weekend, IDF combat jets killed the commander of Hamas’s Shajaiya battalion. Wassim Farhad was responsible for sending the Nukhba fighters who raided Kibbutz Nahal Oz and the nearby army outpost on October 7.
- Speaking on Sunday night, IDF Chief of Staff Halevi said, “as we fought hard and thoroughly in the northern Gaza Strip, so shall we now in the southern Gaza Strip. Yesterday, today, we killed battalion and company commanders, and many operatives, and yesterday morning we began the same course of action in the southern Gaza Strip. It will be just as powerful and will get just as many results, and Hamas’s commanders will find the IDF in a very powerful position everywhere.”
- This morning, the IDF announced three more soldiers have been killed, taking the total to 74 since the ground incursion began.
Context: The IDF campaign is continuing to target what remains of Hamas military positions in northern Gaza, but also in the south.
- There is now significant focus of air strikes on Khan Yunis, where it is thought the top Hamas leadership, including Yahya Sinwar, is located.
- This stage of the war is particularly complex due to the increased population density in Khan Yunis as a result of people having left the north.
- Khan Yunis is the second largest city in the Strip. Before this conflict it had a population of around 200,000 which is now thought to have doubled.
- It is further complicated due to the likely location of the remaining hostages.
- A significant part of the campaign has targeted Hamas’s network of tunnels. On Sunday, the IDF announced that since the beginning of ground operations they have located over “800 shafts.” Adding, “about 500 of the tunnel shafts have been destroyed using a variety of operational methods, including with explosives and blocks. Some of the tunnel shafts connected Hamas' strategic assets via the underground tunnel network. In addition, many miles of the tunnel routes have been destroyed. The tunnel shafts were located in civilian areas, many of which were near or inside civilian buildings and structures, such as schools, kindergartens, mosques and playgrounds. IDF soldiers located large quantities of weapons inside some of the shafts. These findings are further proof of how Hamas deliberately uses the civilian population and infrastructure as a cover for its terrorist activity inside Gaza.”
- “After locating the shafts, IDF troops carry out thorough investigations in order to understand the characteristics of the tunnels and then prepare the underground route for its destruction.”
- Despite a total of 110 returned captives, there remain 137 hostages inside Gaza – two children, nine Thai nationals, 20 Israeli women and 106 men.
- Based on information garnered from those released, Israel has confirmed that six hostages are dead and their bodies are being held in Gaza. They include Col. Assaf Hamami, the commander of the southern brigade in the Gaza Division, who was killed on October 7 and his body taken to Gaza. He is the third division commander killed that day.
- During the pause, Israel facilitated the entrance of over 1,200 trucks of aid, around 200 day. Despite a resumption of fighting, 55 trucks of food and medical supplies entered on Sunday.
- Despite IDF advances, as a result of the pause Hamas were able to replenish rocket supplies and have continued to fire on the Israeli home front. Over 10,000 rockets have been fired out of Gaza since October 7.
Northern front: As soon as Hamas broke the ceasefire in the south on Friday morning, so Hezbollah resumed their strikes in the north.
- On Sunday, there were several attacks including close to Bet Hillel about four km from the Lebanon border with 11 people reported injured.
- Again, there was sustained mortar fire towards Mount Dov and other areas close to the border. The IDF responded by attacking Hezbollah positions on the Lebanese side.
- There are continued diplomatic efforts led by the US and France to financially induce the Lebanese government to act to move Hezbollah fighters away from the border.
Looking ahead: The British Royal Air Force will soon begin to conduct surveillance flights over Gaza to help Israel locate hostages. According to the MOD, “surveillance aircraft will be unarmed, do not have a combat role, and will be tasked solely to locate hostages. Only information relating to hostage rescue will be passed to the relevant authorities responsible for hostage rescue.”
- The IDF estimates that it will take another 10 days to complete this second stage of the war in the northern Gaza Strip.
- The campaign in the south will take longer, but once the north is subdued it will free up additional forces.
- Kan News revealed a recording of Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar saying that Israel’s objective is to kill the Hamas leaders, even in “Lebanon, Qatar and in Turkey. It will take years, but it is our generation’s mission, our Munich.” (Munich is a reference of the killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. It took almost 20 years to target all the Palestinian terrorists responsible).