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analysisIsrael at War

Update: Operation Swords of Iron

IDF: 50,000 Gazans have moved south along Israel’s evacuation corridor

Some 130 Hamas tunnel shafts have been destroyed during “Operation Swords of Iron,” as Israeli ground forces deepen their position into Gaza City.

Smoke rises after Israeli airstrikes as it seen from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 7, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Smoke rises after Israeli airstrikes as it seen from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 7, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin is an Israel-based military affairs correspondent and analyst. He is the in-house analyst at the Miryam Institute; a research associate at the Alma Research and Education Center; and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is a frequent guest commentator on international television news networks, including Sky News and i24 News. Lappin is the author of Virtual Caliphate: Exposing the Islamist State on the Internet. Follow him at: www.patreon.com/yaakovlappin.

The Israel Defense Forces saw some 50,000 Gazan civilians move from northern to southern Gaza on Wednesday via an Israeli evacuation corridor, a military spokesman said, adding that these are people who refuse to comply with Hamas’s demand that they serve as human shields in the current confrontation.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said: “They understand that Hamas lost control of northern Gaza; in the south, there are safer areas where water food and medicine arrive. We will also allow tomorrow for Gazans to leave Hamas’s shackles.”

He added that Hamas leadership is disconnected from the public in the Gaza Strip, sitting in bunkers and disconnected from its own field commanders. The Hamas leadership abroad is also out of touch with events in Gaza and busy with its survival, said Hagari.

“We are continuing to deepen attacks into Gaza City. At this time, ground forces are working in the depth of Gaza City with the help of the Israeli Air Force, Navy and accurate intelligence provided by Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet,” he said.

“There is no ceasefire. We are fighting Hamas. There are humanitarian respites at certain times for letting the civilian population head south. We are not fighting Gazans,” emphasized Hagari.

As part of the activity of IDF ground forces in the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers are currently working to expose and destroy Hamas’ tunnels, said the military, adding that since the beginning of the fighting, 130 tunnel shafts have been destroyed. Most of them were found near educational centers, hospitals, mosques and humanitarian buildings, Hagari said.

“We killed many terrorists and seized many weapons, including more than 700 RPG launchers. We hit Hamas aerial and sea attack units hard, which were planning attacks. … We see expressions by Gazans against Hamas,” he explained.

In the activities of soldiers of the 460th Brigade to locate and destroy underground infrastructure, the brigade’s combat engineers destroyed tunnel shafts and the Hamas command centers. The enemy’s preparation for a prolonged stay in the tunnels can be seen based on water and oxygen supplies found in the tunnels, the IDF said on Wednesday.

‘I can leave with any ambulance I want’

For the first time since the First Lebanon War of 1982, an entire reserve division—the 252nd—is maneuvering in the Gaza Strip, the IDF added.

The 252nd Division (Sinai Division) has been fighting in the northern Gaza Strip since last Saturday; it consists of four infantry brigades (Givati and Paratrooper reserve units) and a reserve armored brigade.

“Over the past days, the division’s forces have secured the area of Beit Hanoun through an operation of eliminating terrorists, and demolishing the terror tunnels and military infrastructure of the Hamas terror organization,” said the IDF.

“Since the beginning of the ground operation, the division’s forces have eliminated hundreds of terrorists, including senior Hamas terrorist operatives, in the Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya areas. Amongst the terrorists eliminated was the Beit Hanoun Battalion Commander, with the assistance of the [Israeli] Air Force. The forces destroyed Hamas terror compounds, which included fighting positions connected to the tunnel system and leading to headquarters, which are positioned under the civilian population,” it stated.

Palestinians at a temporary tent camp set up for those who were evacuated from Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 8, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.

The fighting effort on the ground is supported by artillery strikes from the 454th Artillery Brigade. Directed by the ground forces and precise intelligence, the brigade destroyed approximately 300 targets this week, including underground targets, observation positions and anti-tank positions, according to the IDF. The division’s forces have been part of the fighting and have operating since Oct. 7—the day Hamas infiltrated Israel and murdered 1,400 people—carrying out rescue and defensive missions of communities and key routes.

Also on Wednesday, the IDF announced IDF that a joint military-Shin Bet effort revealed how Hamas also uses ambulances to transfer weapons and terrorist operatives in the Gaza Strip. It released intercepted audio from a conversation involving a Hamas terrorist and a Gazan resident, in which the terrorist states: “I can leave with any ambulance I want.”

The IDF also released quotes from Shin Bet investigations of Hamas Nukhba unit terrorists who took part in the Oct. 7 massacre in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip regarding Hamas’s use of hospitals and ambulances to benefit military activity:

“Al-Qassam [the Hamas military wing] have their own ambulances, some of which are located on the military base. The appearance of the ambulances is similar to the civilian ambulances so that they will not arouse suspicion or be bombed by Israel,” a captured terrorist admitted.

“During combat, the ambulances are used, among other things, to evacuate fighters—commanders and operatives. They also transport food, cargo and weapons in them because that is the safest way to transport them,” he added.

“Most senior Hamas political and military officials are hiding in the hospitals, especially the Shifa Hospital. They take advantage of the hospitals so that they will not be bombed,” he said, adding that “Hamas stores weapons and ammunition under schools. … Many places in the Gaza Strip are rigged; the cables leading to the operating system are in civilian mosques and clinics.”

Combat engineers have also played a key role in locating, exposing and detonating tunnel shafts.

Soldiers of the Nahal Brigade conducted operational activity at a Hamas training post in northern Gaza. Tunnels were located under the post and after they were exposed, the shafts in the post were destroyed, the IDF said on Wednesday.

A military helicopter takes off after bringing wounded soldiers from the Gaza Strip to the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center on Nov. 8, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

‘The path is long’

In the north, the IDF struck a number of anti-tank missile launching posts belonging to Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon on Wednesday.

Terrorists launched an anti-tank missile toward IDF soldiers in the area of Dovev, a moshav in northern Israel in the Upper Galilee. The IDF responded with artillery fire towards the origin of the launch, the military said. Two IDF soldiers were injured—one lightly and the other moderately—and have been evacuated to a hospital for medical treatment. Their families have been notified.

Earlier on Wednesday, two launches towards the areas of Shtula and Yiftah in northern Israel were identified. The IDF responded with tank and artillery fire towards the origin of the launches.

Earlier, in response to the shooting from Lebanon earlier today, IAF fighter jets struck Hezbollah terror targets on Tuesday night. Among these targets were a weapons compound, launching posts, terror command infrastructure, and several other sites in which Hezbollah’s technological means were located, the IDF stated.

In addition, earlier today, a terrorist cell that attempted to fire anti-tank missiles from Lebanon to Israel was struck.

On Tuesday evening, Hagari said that the IDF has attacked more than 14,000 targets in Gaza overall, and destroyed 100-plus tunnel shafts and 4,000 weapons, many of them in mosques, schools and residential buildings.

“There are achievements, but the path is long,” he said.

“Hamas terrorists are telling themselves there will be a ceasefire—there will be no ceasefire,” he stated.

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