The Israel Defense Forces’ much-anticipated ground incursion into the Gaza Strip is being delayed due to “tactical and strategic considerations,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said on Tuesday.
“The IDF is ready for the maneuver, and we will make a decision with the political echelon regarding the shape and timing of the next stage,” Halevi said during a press conference held near the border with Gaza.
“We’ve prepared for this. The IDF and the Southern Command have prepared quality offensive plans to achieve the goals of the war,” he added.
“We are making use of every minute to be even more prepared,” said Halevi. “And every minute that passes on the other side, we strike the enemy even more. Killing terrorists, destroying infrastructure, collecting more intelligence for the next stage.
“This is our country, our home, and we will defend it by every means,” the general vowed.
Hamas terrorists killed at least 1,400 Israelis and wounded more than 4,500 in a massive offensive launched from Gaza on Oct. 7, which included the firing of thousands of rockets at Israel and the infiltration of the Jewish state by terrorist forces.
At least 222 people were taken to Gaza as hostages, the IDF said.
In preparation for an expected ground assault to destroy Hamas’s capabilities, the Israel Air Force is striking terrorist assets in Gaza “at a rate not seen in decades,” a military official said on Friday.
On Sunday, U.S. officials told The New York Times that the Biden administration is advising Israel to delay the ground invasion. The White House reportedly wants more time to negotiate the release of hostages and to allow for more humanitarian aid to enter the coastal enclave.
Halevi subsequently said that the IDF remains committed to the goal of fully dismantling Hamas, including its leadership, military capabilities and working mechanisms.
“The path is a path of unrelenting attacks, damaging Hamas everywhere and in every way. We are well prepared for the ground operations in the south. The Southern Command has quality operational plans. There are tactical, operative, strategic considerations that have provided additional time, and troops who have more time are better prepared, and that is what we are doing now,” Halevi said on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Israel Air Force is focusing its strikes on Hamas targets in the heart of Gaza City and northern Gaza areas such as Zaytun and Shati, the military said on Tuesday, day 18 of the war against the terrorist group.
“That’s where Hamas is preparing and strengthening its forces. We are continuing to strike there intensively,” said IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari on Tuesday morning.
Hagari repeated the military’s call for Gaza residents to move south.
The IDF had also struck Hamas terrorists preparing to attack the Israeli home front, he said, adding that “long weeks of combat are ahead of us.”
In the north, the IAF struck a rocket launch squad preparing an attack on Har Dov, according to Hagari.
He warned that the decrease in Hamas rocket fire in recent days was part of an attempt “by the enemy to put us to sleep. It still has firing capabilities.” Hagari called on civilians to be attentive to IDF Home Front Command instructions and not to be complacent.
Israeli ground forces are training at staging areas, preparing and going over intelligence, Hagari noted. “We will activate our forces when the best conditions are there, and improve the situation [in the meantime] with the IAF and remove threats to them,” he said. “We have to look at [the] region and other efforts underway in Gaza. We are ready and determined.”
Addressing international media reports citing concerns among U.S. officials regarding the readiness of an Israeli ground offensive, Hagari said, “The U.S., a strategic ally, has a range of strategic interests in the Middle East. It has lots of experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are learning from this experience.”
At the same time, he said, “our war is on our border, not thousands of miles from Israel. We, on the day after the war, must live with [a reality in which] a threat like this that existed on Oct. 7 is no more. Hence, this is a decision we have to take alone.”