newsIsrael at War

IDF chief hails ‘very significant achievement’ as Israeli forces conclude Shifa Hospital op

Hundreds of terrorists, including senior figures, were killed or captured, while not a single medical staff member or patient was injured • Israel, U.S. to hold virtual meeting on IDF's pending Rafah operation.

Israeli forces operating in the area of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 31, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israeli forces operating in the area of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 31, 2024. Credit: IDF.

The Israel Defense Forces and Israel Security Agency have completed a two-week joint operation to eliminate a Hamas insurgency at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the military said on Monday.

Soldiers from Shayetet 13, the 401st Brigade and the Nahal Brigade under the command of the 162nd Division left the Strip’s largest medical complex in the morning.

The operation began on March 19, based on urgent intelligence that Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists had regrouped in the hospital. Since then, hundreds of terrorists have been killed and captured in what IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi described on Friday during a visit there as a “successful operation.”

Halevi continued: “The fact that this operation saw no harm to a single medical staff member or patient, but we were able to kill and capture many, many terrorists, is a very significant achievement.”

Approximately 200 terrorists were slain and more than 500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad members were arrested during the operation, including senior officials.

Israel, US to hold virtual discussion on Rafah operation

Israel and the United States are expected to participate in a virtual meeting about the IDF’s pending Rafah operation and the Biden administration’s proposed alternatives to a full-scale invasion of the southern Gaza city, Walla! reported, citing four senior Israel and American officials.

The United States opposes an operation in Rafah, Hamas’s last bastion in Gaza, on a scale similar to those carried out by Israel in Gaza City and Khan Yunis. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already ordered preparations for the attack, which Jerusalem views as necessary to achieve its war goal of defeating the terrorist group.

According to Israeli estimates, the final four Hamas battalions, comprising some 3,000 terrorists, are holed up in the city along the Egyptian border. There are also well over a million Gazans sheltered there, who Netanyahu has emphasized will be relocated prior to the ground operation as has occurred in other combat zones during the nearly six-month-long war.

The meeting was originally scheduled last week and was to be an in-person affair at the White House involving Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and head of the National Security Council of Israel Tzachi Hanegbi, but was cancelled by Netanyahu after the United States failed to veto a U.N. Security Council vote on March 25 decoupling for the first time a demand for a ceasefire from the release of the hostages still being held by Hamas.

However, the White House said on March 27 that Netanyahu agreed to reschedule the meeting.

A senior Israeli official told Walla! that the virtual meeting would allow Netanyahu to “climb down from the tree” without sending a delegation to Washington.

The meeting will take place via secure video conference call and will include White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other American officials, with the Israeli side represented by Dermer and Hanegbi along with other senior officials.

An Israeli official said that another meeting is scheduled for next week that will include an Israeli delegation visiting Washington.

Israel will defeat Hamas by entering Rafah and destroying the remaining battalions there, Netanyahu stressed on Sunday night.

“There is no victory without entering Rafah; there is no victory without destroying the Hamas battalions there,” he said in a primetime television address, adding that the operation “will take time, but it will happen.”

The looming incursion has resulted in friction with the U.S. administration over concerns regarding potential harm to noncombatants.

U.S. President Joe Biden is considering conditioning military aid to Israel if Jerusalem moves forward with its planned operation, Politico reported earlier this month, citing officials in his administration.

As part of the preparations for the ground invasion, Jerusalem has presented plans to direct a significant number of civilians from Rafah to “humanitarian islands” in the center of the coastal enclave. Netanyahu has reportedly ordered the purchase of 40,000 tents for evacuees.

Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi in a recent conversation that “we will not accept any more thousands of innocent deaths in Rafah, as in Gaza [City] and Khan Yunis,” according to Kan News.

Brown, the highest-ranking military officer in the United States, offered Halevi an alternative plan focused around the isolation and encirclement of Rafah by Israeli forces, accompanied by targeted raids based on intelligence.

Netanyahu has repeatedly emphasized that telling Israel to refrain from operating in Rafah is equivalent to demanding that it lose the war. Many of the 134 hostages still in the hands of Hamas in Gaza 177 days after being kidnapped by the terror group are believed to be in Rafah. Two captives were rescued from the city by Israeli special forces last month.

Around three-quarters of Jewish Israelis and a majority of Israelis overall support expanding the IDF’s military operations against Hamas to Rafah, according to polling conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute.

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