update deskIsrael at War

Gallant: Rafah battle will continue with reinforcements

"We are wearing Hamas down," the fight "will intensify," Israel's defense minister said.

Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and 162nd Division commander Brig. Gen. Itzik Cohen during a situational assessment of the Rafah operation in Gaza, May 16, 2024. Photo by Ariel Hermoni/IMoD.
Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and 162nd Division commander Brig. Gen. Itzik Cohen during a situational assessment of the Rafah operation in Gaza, May 16, 2024. Photo by Ariel Hermoni/IMoD.

Israel’s military operation in Rafah in southernmost Gaza “will intensify” as additional forces join the campaign, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Thursday during a visit to the headquarters of the IDF’s 162nd Armored Division, aka the Steel Formation.

After completing a situational assessment with commanders leading the charge in the last Hamas bastion, the minister touted the achievements since the ground offensive began on May 6.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant during a situational assessment of the Rafah operation in southern Gaza, May 16, 2024. Photo by Ariel Hermoni/IMoD.

“I am now in the Rafah area after meeting the head of the Southern Command [Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman] and the commanders of Division 162 [Brig. Gen. Itzik Cohen], Brigade 84, Brigade 401 and the Fire Brigade. All our troops are working in an extraordinary manner. Hundreds of [terrorist] targets have already been struck, and our forces are maneuvering in the area,” Gallant said.

“This operation will continue as additional forces will enter [the area]. Several tunnels in the area have been destroyed by our troops and additional tunnels will be destroyed soon. This activity will intensify – Hamas is not an organization that can reorganize, it does not have reserve troops, it has no supply stocks and no ability to treat the terrorists that we target. The result is that we are wearing Hamas down.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of his coalition slammed Gallant on Wednesday night after he demanded that the government commit to Palestinian control over the Gaza Strip after the war with Hamas ends.

“I am not willing to exchange Hamastan for Fatahstan,” Netanyahu said in a video statement, with the latter term referring to Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah Party.

The premier reiterated that the Ramallah-based P.A. “supports terrorism, teaches terrorism and funds terrorism.”

“The first condition for ‘the day after’ is to eliminate Hamas, with no excuses,” he said, addressing criticism by Gallant and the Biden administration that Israel does not have an exit plan for Gaza.

Netanyahu’s remarks came shortly after Gallant at a press conference urged the government to “make a decision and declare that Israel will not establish civilian control over the Gaza Strip, that Israel will not establish military governance in the Gaza Strip, and that a governing alternative to Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be promoted immediately.

“Since October, I have been raising this issue consistently in the Cabinet and have received no response. The end of the military campaign must come together with political action. The ‘day after Hamas’ will only be achieved with Palestinian entities taking control of Gaza, accompanied by international actors,” the defense minister said.

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