Israel-Palestine conflict: Israel’s ground operation to move south in Gaza
IDF plans southern Gaza ground operation post clearing north, says an Israeli military official
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) plans to extend its ground operation to southern Gaza, having nearly cleared overground Hamas military infrastructure in the enclave’s north, an Israeli military official said on Tuesday.
On a day of the Israel-Hamas truce that halted fire and allowed the exchange of some Israeli citizens taken hostage by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners, and the passage of humanitarian aid into war-ravaged Gaza, the official said the IDF could launch the ground raids in the south any time after the fighting resumes. He did not give details.
“The north is more or less clear,” Colonel Avichai Zafrani, the defence attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Delhi, told reporters of Hamas’ military infrastructure on the ground in Gaza, adding that tunnels were being searched.
According to Zafrani, Hamas’ two main operations in the coastal enclave were in or under the Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in the Gaza Strip, located in the north, and in Khan Younis, a city in the south.
He said caches of arms and ammunition, including anti-tank explosive devices and mines, were found in the hospital area, under which tunnels exist that had been used by Hamas; and that a tunnel shaft had been found near an amusement park and a rocket launcher near a mosque.
“The government had given the IDF two objectives – one was to eliminate Hamas, and, two, to get the hostages released,” Zafrani said.
The Palestinian militant group that attacked Israel on October 7 has been hit hard through Israeli airstrikes, ground raids and naval blockades.
“Hamas is under pressure” and wants to negotiate a ceasefire longer than the present pause, Zafrani said.
By the time of filing of this report, 51 Israeli hostages, including with dual citizenship, and 20 foreign hostages, mostly Thai farm workers in Israel, had been released by Hamas, as part of a swap deal for 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
An estimated 168 hostages still remain in captivity, be it with Hamas or another Palestinian militant outfit that had entered Israel on October 7.
When asked where the civilians of Gaza would seek shelter when the IDF carries out raids in the south, Zafrani said a related plan would be announced.
Earlier in the conflict, which is now in its eighth week, tens of thousands fled their homes in the north to take refuge in camps, schools and other makeshift accommodation in the south. They, along with Gazans in the south, will likely have to relocate again soon. But it is not clear yet where the humanitarian shelters will be put up once Israel’s southern ground offensive begins.
Of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, 1.7 million are displaced, according to UN estimates.
The conflict, which is unlikely to stop in the coming weeks, unless there’s a diplomatic breakthrough, was triggered after Hamas attacked Israel with rockets and overground incursions, killing 1,200 people.
Some 14,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli’s retaliatory strikes, the media in the West Asia report, citing Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, which does not differentiate between civilian and Hamas deaths.
Israeli officials have said the IDF has killed a large number of Hamas fighters but, so far, no names have been made public other than of some that the IDF said were Hamas commanders.
Published: 29 Nov 2023, 9:47 AM