Hamas is attempting to reestablish its governing capabilities in areas of the Gaza Strip from which Israeli forces have withdrawn, deploying police officers and paying partial salaries to civil servants.
Four Gaza City residents told the Associated Press that the terrorist group has dispatched both uniformed and plainclothes officers near the police headquarters and other government offices, as well as the Shifa Hospital, which Israel exposed in November of last year as a Hamas command center used to hold hostages.
Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip on Oct. 27, 2023 following weeks of air strikes in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas assault on southern Israel in which 1,200 people were murdered, thousands more wounded and 253 taken captive.
One of Jerusalem’s stated war goals is the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capacities in Gaza.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced in mid-January the end of heavy combat in the northern Gaza Strip, on the same day that that the military’s largest regular-service armored division exited the Gaza Strip for rest and training, leaving three other divisions fighting Hamas.
While the Israeli military has continued intensive operations in the southern Gaza Strip centered around the Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis, the reduction in boots on the ground elsewhere in the Strip has created an opening for Hamas to attempt to reassert some sort of control over the coastal enclave it has ruled since 2007.
This situation has led to Israeli airstrikes in the area of the makeshift offices in Gaza City where the return of some civil servants were seen.
“In recent days, Israeli forces renewed the attacks in the western and northwestern parts of Gaza City, including in the areas where salaries were distributed,” the sources told AP.
The IDF is also expected to increase troop activity in northern Gaza in the coming weeks to try to quell the Hamas resurgence.
Israel’s Army Radio reported that the military is planning to carry out extensive raids due to increased activity by the terror group in northern Gaza.
According to Israeli military estimates, there are about 2,000 Hamas terrorists in the north (the rest were killed or escaped), who are completely disconnected from the leadership in the south.
“The return of the police marks an attempt to restore order in the devastated city after the Israeli forces withdrew from northern Gaza last month,” a Hamas official told AP.
Many Hamas fighters have also been captured by Israeli forces on and after Oct. 7. Before the attack, Hamas was estimated to have a fighting force in Gaza of some 30,000 to 40,000 terrorists.
“We are achieving our missions in Khan Yunis, and we will also reach Rafah and eliminate terror elements that threaten us,” said Gallant.
Israeli forces press offensive in Khan Yunis
Israeli forces continued to press their offensive in Khan Yunis, the IDF said on Sunday morning.
Khan Yunis, Gaza’s second-largest city, is regarded as a personal stronghold of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.
Over the past day, members of the IDF’s Paratroopers Brigade raided a multi-story building used as a command center by the head of Hamas’s Khan Yunis Brigade. Soldiers found Kalashnikovs, ammunition, military equipment and technological gear, according to the IDF.
The soldiers also eliminated several terrorists in close-quarters combat.
In northern Gaza, the 401st Brigade eliminated terrorists and uncovered Kalashnikov rifles, pistols, military equipment, ammunition and grenades.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force struck numerous Hamas targets across the Strip, including rocket launch sites.
Soldier slain in Gaza
The IDF’s death toll since the start of Gaza ground operations on Oct. 27 has risen to 225 with the announcement on Sunday morning that Sgt. First Class (res.) Shimon Yehoshua Asulin, a 24-year-old resident of Beit Shemesh, was killed in action in southern Gaza on Saturday.
A total of 562 military personnel have been killed on all fronts since the start of the war on Oct. 7, 2023.