IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi gave a press briefing Tuesday evening, where he said the Israeli military is continuing its objectives decisively in the Gaza Strip.
“Sixty days since the war began, our forces are now encircling the Khan Younis area in the southern Gaza Strip. Simultaneously, we continue to secure our accomplishments in the northern Gaza Strip,” Halevi said.
“Those who thought that the IDF would not know how to renew the fighting after the pause were mistaken, and Hamas is already feeling this.”
The IDF chief the troops have already begun the “third phase of ground operations” with the entry of forces into Khan Younis, the most important Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip.
He confirmed" “Many Hamas operatives, including senior commanders, have been eliminated in recent days.”
The IDF continues operations in the northern Gaza Strip, especially in Jabaliya and Shaja'iya, the two northern Hamas strongholds that still hold a number of Hamas terrorists.
Defense forces were unable to finish securing those territories before the pause in fighting to for the hostage release deal. As a result, Hamas was able to reinforce those areas before the operational activity resumed.
Halevi also addressed the issue of damage to civilian infrastructure.
“We operate professionally; evacuating the population from combat zones,” he said.
However, he acknowledged a significant level of destruction, which he said was the responsibility of Hamas.
“Many ask about the destruction in Gaza. Hamas is the address. Sinwar is the address. Our forces find in nearly every building and house weapons and in many houses terrorists, and engage them in combat.”
Acknowledging the complexity of urban warfare in civilian areas, Halevi said the IDF makes all efforts “to mitigate as much as possible harm to civilians.”
He reminded the press that Hamas violates laws of war by using civilian buildings for combat purposes and by having terrorists attack IDF forces while dressed in civilian clothes. Both of which are violations of laws of war.
“Our forces find weapons in nearly every building and terrorists in many houses, and engage them in combat,” Halevi stated.
“We understand that part of their method is the weapons left in the houses. A terrorist arrives in civilian clothing and conducts combat from there. Striking them requires significant use of fire, both to target the enemy but also to, of course, protect our forces. Therefore the forces operate powerfully, while making big efforts to mitigate as much as possible harm to civilians.”
Halevi also said that the intense IDF combat efforts are part of the effort to bring home the rest of the hostages, saying the efforts to eliminate Hamas and rescue hostages are “complementary missions and not competing things.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.