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Israeli DM: 'The Gaza branch does not answer, Hamas is looking for a replacement for Sinwar'

At the same time, Gallant's statement is directed upwards – to the leadership of Hamas abroad, and downwards – to the battalion commanders and company commanders who, according to estimates, conduct independent fighting without contact with the senior military wing

Yahya Sinwar, the Gaza Strip chief of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, arrives at a rally marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, April 14, 2023. (Photo: Mohammed Talatene/DPA via Reuters)

Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Sunday, during a situation assessment at the IDF's Southern Command, that "Hamas is looking for a replacement for Sinwar" and that the organization's Khan Younis Brigade has been defeated.

According to Gallant, "Hamas' Gaza branch is not responding. There is no one to talk to as leadership on the ground and the external leadership is looking for internal leadership. I mean, there is a search for who will manage Gaza, there is no party that is controlling [Gaza] and no party that is working."

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at IDF Southern Command HQ, Feb. 18, 2024 (Photo: Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)

On Sunday evening, the KAN 11 evening news program reported that Gallant's statement, which is also based on intelligence assessments, is directed toward senior Hamas leadership abroad, led by Ismail Haniyeh.

The security establishment in Israel says there is a complete disconnection and lack of communication between the leadership of Hamas in Gaza, led by Yahya Sinwar, and the leadership of Hamas abroad – something that sabotages hostage release deal negotiations. In Israel, they say it is impossible to make progress in the negotiations, which are managed remotely by Hamas abroad.

It is likely Gallant's statement is also directed downward, to the levels of Hamas field operatives. Sources in Israel estimate that Hamas brigade commanders, and also the senior command of the military branch – led by Muhammad Deif and Marwan Issa – do not communicate with the field ranks, especially the rank of company commanders and battalion commanders so that Hamas terrorists currently fight independent of frameworks. The Israeli defense minister's statement also inferred that Hamas operatives are likely losing confidence in the leadership of the terror organization.

In the situational assessment of the war, the defense minister was presented with the operational progress of IDF troops in the Gaza Strip, mainly in the area of the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, as well as the plans for the continuation of the fighting in the central and Rafah camps.

“The deepening of military activities in Khan Younis continues to bear fruit. Two hundred terrorists have surrendered at Nasser Hospital, dozens [of terrorists] have surrendered at Amal Hospital – this shows that they [Hamas] have lost their fighting spirit. Terrorists armed with RPGs, weapons and guns, [faced the IDF] and did not fight back. They [Hamas terrorists] understood that their options were to surrender or die.”

The defense minister also stated: “The Khan Younis brigade has been defeated and no longer functions as a military entity. Hamas is left with forces in the central area of Gaza, and the Rafah brigade. The only thing required for their total collapse as a military system, is the IDF’s decision. There is no one here to come to their aid – no Iranians and no international assistance.”

Gallant vowed: “We will dismantle Hamas’ six remaining battalions – we have no right to stop as long as there are 134 hostages left in Gaza.”

Suleiman is a political reporter for KAN 11.

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