newsIsrael at War

Israel expects up to eight weeks of intense fighting in Gaza

After that period, the Israeli military will shift to a more targeted phase • Hamas claims 6,000 fighters killed in war, about half the number of the IDF's most recent estimate.

  • Israeli troops during operational activities in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.
    Israeli troops during operational activities in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.
  • Israeli soldiers during operational activity in the Gaza Strip on Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.
    Israeli soldiers during operational activity in the Gaza Strip on Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.
  • Israeli troops during operational activities in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 14, 2024. Credit: IDF.
    Israeli troops during operational activities in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 14, 2024. Credit: IDF.
  • Israel Defense Forces troops operate in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 12, 2024. Credit: IDF.
    Israel Defense Forces troops operate in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 12, 2024. Credit: IDF.
  • IDF soldiers leave the Gaza Strip in the Beit Hanun area as part of a rotation of forces, Jan. 30, 2024. Credit: TPS.
    IDF soldiers leave the Gaza Strip in the Beit Hanun area as part of a rotation of forces, Jan. 30, 2024. Credit: TPS.
  • Israel Defense Forces troops operate in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 12, 2024. Credit: IDF.
    Israel Defense Forces troops operate in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 12, 2024. Credit: IDF.
  • Israel Defense Forces troops operate in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 12, 2024. Credit: IDF.
    Israel Defense Forces troops operate in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 12, 2024. Credit: IDF.
  • Israeli forces during operational activity in the Gaza Strip on Feb. 10, 2024. Credit: IDF.
    Israeli forces during operational activity in the Gaza Strip on Feb. 10, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Jerusalem expects intense fighting to continue in Gaza for another six to eight weeks, including in Rafah city, before scaling back the war effort, Reuters reported on Monday.

“Military chiefs believe they can significantly damage Hamas’s remaining capabilities in that time, paving the way for a shift to a lower-intensity phase of targeted airstrikes and special forces operations,” the report stated, citing two Israeli officials and two regional officials familiar with the strategy.

Despite international concerns about potential civilian casualties in Gaza’s southernmost city, Jerusalem is determined to proceed with the ground operation in Rafah, according to the Israel Defense Forces Hamas’s last bastion in the Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed the necessity of the Rafah operation to complete the defeat of the terrorist group.

Israel is also planning to destroy the weapons-smuggling tunnels believed to be running underneath the Gaza-Egyptian border.

Israeli forces operating in the Gaza Strip on Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday said that the IDF fighters would also target Hamas commander centers in Rafah, stressing that “extraordinary measures” would be taken to avoid civilian casualties.

The population of Rafah has swelled in recent months to some 1.5 million after Israeli forces directed residents of northern Gaza to a humanitarian zone there. Israel is reportedly working on a plan to evacuate noncombatants from the city ahead of ground maneuvers there.

“There were 24 regional battalions in Gaza—we have dismantled 18 of them,” Gallant told foreign reporters on Friday. “Now, Rafah is the next Hamas center of gravity.”

Hamas says 6,000 of its fighters killed

A Hamas official based in Qatar told Reuters that the terrorist group estimates that 6,000 of its fighters have been killed by Israeli forces during the more than four-month-old war in Gaza.

That number is about half of the 12,000 terrorists that Israel said it has killed since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led massacre, with many more wounded and apprehended. Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy announced these numbers a week ago, also saying that “about three-quarters of Hamas’ battalions have been shattered.” The dead, wounded and captured terrorists represent “more than half of Hamas’ fighting force knocked out of action,” he said.

For his part, the Hamas official claimed that the terrorist group can continue fighting for an extended period.

“Netanyahu’s options are difficult and ours are too. He can occupy Gaza but Hamas is still standing and fighting. He hasn’t achieved his goals to kill the Hamas leadership or annihilate Hamas,” the official said.

Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, the mastermind of the Oct. 7 massacre, is believed to be hiding in the vast tunnel network underneath Rafah.

IDF kills terrorist who fired rocket from Gaza at Kibbutz Be’eri

The Israeli Air Force killed a terrorist in central Gaza on Sunday, minutes after he launched a rocket at Israeli territory that fell in an open area near Kibbutz Be’eri.

Nahal Brigade soldiers directed the strike, in the Gaza City area. Additional terrorist cells operating near Israeli troops were also eliminated, according to the IDF.

Israeli forces are continuing to press the offensive in western Khan Yunis after weeks of intense fighting in the former Hamas stronghold, the army said on Monday morning.

IDF soldier slain in Gaza

The military death toll since the start of the Gaza ground invasion on Oct. 27 rose to 236 on Monday morning with the announcement that Staff Sgt. Simon Shlomov, 20, from Kiryat Bialik, was killed in battle in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday.

A total of 574 military personnel have fallen on all fronts since the start of the war on Oct. 7, 2023.

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