The destruction left in the wake of Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists infiltrated the Gaza border in southern Israel, and wreaked havoc on the residents of Kibbutz Be'eri, Oct. 22, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
The Israel Defense Forces will keep fighting in the Gaza Strip until Hamas’s “significant military and governing capabilities” are eliminated and the 130-plus hostages held captive by the terror group are returned, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Wednesday, mere days after announcing a significant reduction in military operations in Gaza.
“If the fate of Hamas is not complete dismantlement, we will not be able to live in the State of Israel,” Gallant told members of the Israeli Navy’s Shayetet 13 naval commando unit at a base in Atlit, near Haifa.
“The end of this war—whenever it may be—will be based on our achievements. This will include destroying Hamas’s ability to operate with military and governing capabilities. We will maintain freedom of operation,” said Gallant, according to a statement from his office.
“In northern Gaza, we are dismantling their capabilities, dismantling their battalion frameworks. This enables an IDF brigades to maneuver from place to place: Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun and Jabalia,” he continued.
“The same goes for areas in the center of the Gaza Strip, and we will achieve this in Khan Yunis as well. In Khan Yunis, we operate in a different way…. There, we focus on reaching Hamas’s leadership and on the hostage issue,” he added.
Moreover, he continued, Israel has “no right” to stop fighting until the hostages are freed, and “the only way to bring them back is via military pressure, because Hamas only responds to the use of force.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to the country’s south on Wednesday, where he visited troops at the Nevatim Air Force Base, where F-35 squadrons are stationed.
“The war is continuing, and it will continue until the end, until we achieve all of its goals: returning the hostages, eliminating Hamas and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to Israel,” the premier reiterated during a meeting with the 116th “Lions of the South” Squadron.
“Let nobody misjudge us: We will continue to fight on land, at sea and in the air until total victory,” said Netanyahu, according to his office.
Earlier this week, Gallant signaled the impending end to heavy combat operations in the southern and northern parts of the Gaza Strip.
“The intensive maneuvering phase in the north of the Gaza Strip has ended, and in the south, it will also end soon,” Gallant said during a press conference on Monday evening.
“Some three months ago…we specified the stages of implementation and made it clear that the intensive maneuvering phase will last for approximately three months—in the north of the Gaza Strip, this phase has concluded,” the defense minister said.
The announcement came a day after the 36th Division, the IDF’s largest regular-service armored division, which includes the Golani Infantry Brigade, left Gaza for rest and training.
On Tuesday, the IDF announced that the undercover counterterror Duvdevan Unit would also leave the Strip and redeploy to its regular location in Judea and Samaria.
“At this stage, three divisions are operating in Gaza. One division is fighting in the north of the Strip and carrying out raids to counter terrorism,” IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirmed during a press briefing on Wednesday night.
“A second division is holding the corridor that separates northern Gaza from southern Gaza; this division fights in the center of the Strip and carries out operational activities. The third division—with the broadest range of forces—is fighting in the Khan Yunis area,” said the spokesman.
In some cases, the IDF has decided to reduce the amount of military force in the interest of “security and achieving a better mission,” Hagari claimed.
He noted that Israeli troops were still expanding their operation in the southern Hamas stronghold, killing more than 30 terrorists in “heavy fighting” during the past day alone.
As Hagari spoke on Wednesday night, the IDF cleared for publication of the name of an additional soldier killed in action in Gaza.
Staff Sgt. Oriya Ayimalk Goshen, 21, from Jerusalem, of the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance unit, fell in battle in the south of the Strip, the military said.
Meanwhile, a viral Hamas propaganda video shared on social media on Wednesday showed over a dozen armed operatives of the terror group roaming the streets of Gaza, praying and screaming “Allahu akbar” (Allah is great).
The undated clip was filmed in areas of the Strip from which Israeli forces had previously withdrawn, accordging to Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israeli radio and television.