The Israel Defense Forces is expected to increase troop activity in northern Gaza in the coming weeks following attempts by Hamas to reestablish a foothold there.
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, which included a rocket barrage on Sunday night that set off air-raid sirens in Ashkelon for the first time in nearly a month.
The report also noted a recent gun battle near the coast in northern Gaza in which IDF soldiers killed five Hamas operatives.
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.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced in mid-January the end of heavy combat in the northern Gaza Strip.
“The intensive maneuvering phase in the north of the Gaza Strip has ended, and in the south, it will also end soon,” Gallant said at the time.
The announcement came on the same day that the military’s largest regular-service armored division exited the Gaza Strip for rest and training, leaving three other divisions fighting Hamas.
Israel presses offensive in Khan Yunis
The Israel military continues its push into the heart of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, the IDF said on Monday morning.
Khan Yunis, Gaza’s second-largest city, is regarded as a personal stronghold of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, whose family lives there. Ground forces recently completed their encirclement of the city.
Meanwhile, in central Gaza, Israeli forces eliminated dozens of armed terrorists and seized a large number of weapons, according to the military.
Around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were murdered in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7, 2023. The number of men and women and children held captive in Gaza by Hamas is now believed to be 136, although some are confirmed dead.
Biden admin explores leveraging arms supply to pressure Israel
The Biden administration is reportedly exploring the possibility of leveraging arms shipments to Israel to place pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scale back the war against Hamas and let more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, NBC News reported on Sunday.
At the direction of the White House, the U.S. Department of Defense has been examining what weapons Jerusalem has requested that could be used as leverage, current and former officials told the outlet.
Among the weaponry under discussion are 155-mm artillery rounds and Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) bomb guidance kits, which enable the IDF to accurately target terrorist operatives and avoid unnecessary civilian casualties in Gaza, NBC added.
John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the U.S. National Security Council, appeared to deny the report later on Sunday, telling reporters, “There has not been a change in our policy.
“Israel has a right and obligation to defend themselves against the threat of Hamas while abiding by international humanitarian law and protecting civilian lives, and we remain committed to support Israel in its fight against Hamas,” Kirby said in a statement.
“We have done so since Oct. 7 and will continue to,” added the White House spokesman.