The Israel Defense Forces have so far killed or wounded at least half of Hamas’s estimated 30,000 terror operatives in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated during a visit to the southern border on Monday.
“We have already killed a quarter of the Hamas terrorists, at least, and the same number are wounded,” he told IDF Artillery Corps reservists serving near Gaza. “Terrorists remain, and we are fighting against pockets of resistance … it will take months, not one day.”
However, the remaining half of Hamas’s terror army has limited supplies, ammunition and reinforcements, he claimed, noting that it is becoming harder and harder “for them to take care of themselves” and “their wounded.”
Gallant continued, specifying that “we have three goals for this war: to eliminate Hamas, to return our hostages and to preserve the unity of the Israeli people. We’re in a long war, but in the end, we will break Hamas.”
The defense minister vowed to keep fighting until Hamas is eliminated “as a governing system and as a military organization capable of launching attacks against the State of Israel.”
The language used by Gallant on Monday differed somewhat from the wording used in previous statements, including by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which consistently defined the third goal as ensuring that the Gaza Strip in its entirety will never pose a threat to Israel again.
‘We are hitting them above and below ground’
Since Jan. 21, the army has been mounting a massive assault in Khan Yunis, killing scores of terrorist operatives, including company commanders. The battle force includes parts of the IDF’s Givati Infantry Brigade, 7th Armored Brigade, paratroopers and commandoes.
On Jan. 23, Israeli ground forces completed the encirclement of Khan Yunis, killing dozens of terrorists in the process.
Israel’s Ynet website on Monday cited a senior security official who said the IDF managed to destroy two of the four Hamas battalions operating in the Khan Yunis area. Troops have already killed approximately 3,000 out of 4,000 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists during battles above and below ground in Khan Yunis, the report added.
“We are fighting in a simultaneous maneuver—combat above and below ground at the same time. Hamas terrorists are on the run, and we are hitting them and their above- and below-ground infrastructure,” said IDF 98th Division commander Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfuss.
The IDF is making “significant progress” in dismantling the vast tunnel network under Khan Yunis, according to the statement shared by the military on Monday evening. So far, hundreds of terrorists have been eliminated underground during close-quarter encounters with ground forces and in Israeli Air Force attacks.
Above ground, soldiers of the 98th Division raided hundreds of terrorist infrastructures, including battalion headquarters, training compounds, communication posts, a command center, a military intelligence building, a rocket manufacturing facility, as well as offices of senior terror officials, including Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.
One of the masterminds of the Oct. 7 massacre, along with the leader of Hamas’s “military wing” Mohammed Deif, Sinwar is believed to be hiding in the Khan Yunis area, where he has reportedly surrounded themselves with a large number of living Israeli hostages. Khan Yunis is regarded as a personal stronghold of Sinwar, whose family lives there.
Air-raid sirens blared across Tel Aviv and its suburbs on Monday afternoon, warning of incoming rockets from the Gaza Strip for the first time since Jan. 1. Local reports said at least 10 terror rockets were fired towards central Israel, sending millions of civilians racing for shelter.
Israel’s Kan News public broadcaster subsequently reported that the barrage was launched by Hamas terrorists from the area of Khan Yunis.
Also on Monday, Netanyahu held a meeting on the issue of returning the residents of southern Israel to their homes, according to a statement from his office. According to Netanyahu, “significant progress” has been made, and “final adjustments are being made to advance the issue.”
A decision on the matter will soon be submitted to the government for discussion, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Terrorists in northern Gaza on Sunday launched a volley of rockets towards the southern city of Ashkelon for the first time in nearly a month. According to estimates, about 2,000 Hamas terrorists remain in Gaza’s north, who are disconnected from the leadership in the south.