The Israel Defense Forces has marked Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar and the entire leadership of the Hamas terror regime as targets for elimination ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive, five days after Israel suffered the worst massacre in its history, with some 1,300 people murdered in the south on Oct. 7 by Hamas death squads.
IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Thursday evening, “The findings we are gathering in the territory on this murderous attack shows that the architect is Yahya Sinwar along with all his government and military. Hamas is ISIS—this is not a slogan because we found terrorists with ISIS flags. We also found ISIS booklets. Hamas is ISIS. Hamas is Al-Qaeda.”
Vowing that “we can’t allow Hamas ISIS Al-Qaeda be near any one of our borders,” Hagari added hours after reports of airstrikes on the Syrian airports at Damascus at Aleppo. “The IDF will work across the Middle East to implement Israel’s security interests. This will happen in any arena—anywhere we understand there is a threat to Israel.”
Earlier on Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi also marked out Hamas’s leadership as the target, stating: “The massacre by the murderous and animalistic Hamas terrorists of our children, our women, our people, is animalistic, inhumane. The IDF is fighting ruthless terrorists who committed unimaginable acts.”
He said that “this despicable attack was ordered by Yahya Sinwar, and hence [he] and the entire system underneath him are dead men walking. We will attack them; we will strike them and break up their system. The IDF under my command understands the gravity of the situation and the mission on our shoulders.”
Halevi said wide-ranging Israeli Air Force strikes have already killed numerous Hamas terrorists and commanders, destroying terror infrastructure that “supported this terrible and cruel crime.”
“Gaza will not look the same. We are in a situation in which those who led Gaza will be hit and dismantled, and those who stay will understand that such a thing is not to be done to the State of Israel. It will take time,” he stated.
Halevi said that on Saturday morning, the IDF failed to meet its mission of protecting Israel. “We will learn and investigate, but now it’s time to fight,” the chief of staff vowed.
‘Take abilities away to do it again’
Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, former Military Intelligence chief, assessed that “Hamas knew very well that Gaza would be destroyed after the attack. Israel has to change its assumptions. Israel no longer sees Hamas as an address for arrangements or a ceasefire. Israel sees Hamas according to their behavior on Saturday as worse than ISIS, a Nazi organization that should be destroyed. The way that Nazis were destroyed in Europe by allies and ISIS in the Middle East by a U.S.-led coalition. This is where we stand today.”
Stating that the goal of the war for Israel is the destruction of Hamas, Yadlin defined this as taking away all of its military and governing capabilities, and replacing it “with something else.”
He noted that this goal was avoided by all previous Israeli governments, “but since the atrocities and scale of killings of civilians, families, young children, beheaded babies, burning and dancing around Israeli bodies—these are pictures that Israel cannot tolerate. It will lead to this operation, which is not a punishment; it’s to take Hamas’s abilities away to do it again, and at the end of the operation, the rest of the Middle East should contemplate the consequences of doing something like this again.”
Yadlin said IAF strikes are wider than ever before, adding that they are fully in line with international law in the same way that the U.S. Air Force interpreted international law when it bombed Mosul to root out ISIS in 2016.
“We are not going to Dresden, but we will target every Hamas target, military post, military command, arms production, logistics—everything. We will not knock on the roof. We will do it in the way the rest of the world does war. You hit the target, as part of proportionality and just war principle, but it will be very difficult for the Gazans,” acknowledged Yadlin.
“International law let the United States Air Force bomb Mosul to the ground to kill ISIS—10,000 casualties, 90% of them civilians,” he said. “We will face a humanitarian crisis, and we will ask to ease it only if the kidnapped are released.”
Addressing the risk of another Iran proxy, Hezbollah, joining the war, Yadlin said that the Lebanon-based terror organization has initiated the lowest level of activity, doing “the minimum needed so that Hamas could not complain that they did not participate. Hezbollah can do much more, but they are doing very measured and careful attacks on Israel.”
However, he cautioned that “the second stage may be when the ground operations may start.”
A third stage would be the scenario of a full-scale Israel-Hezbollah war.
“I don’t see Nasrallah there but you have to be very careful when looking at decisions of terror organizations. We have to be ready that we are mistaken and he [Nasrallah] will attack as well,” he stated.
“This is a war between two states—the state of Hamastan, which killed 1,200 Israelis, and the State of Israel, and it will behave as if it was attacked by Syria or Jordan. Very much like how the United States behaved after 9/11. If Sinwar and [Hamas military wing chief Mohammad] Deif survive this operation, we are not standing up to objectives set by the government of Israel,” said Yadlin.
‘We will settle the score’
Looking ahead after the war, he said: “We will try to give it back to the Palestinian Authority or any other Arab entity that wants to control Gaza. The Qataris are good friends of the Gazans, Egypt, Jordan—whoever wants Gaza will get it. We don’t want to rule 2 million Palestinians.”
At the same time, he said, Israel will work to continuously destroy the military build-up of terror organizations in Gaza in the future irrespective of who will control it, “the way we are doing in the West Bank.”
“We don’t let them build an army that penetrates Israel and kills thousands of civilians. Not anymore. This is gone,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday, IDF Spokesperson Hagari said a wave of aerial strikes had targeted Hamas’s commando forces that carried out the murderous attacks in southern Israel.
“We will settle the score with any terrorist who was involved in these attacks,” he said.
“We are identifying those who committed these atrocities, cross-referencing information and locations, and we will pursue them. They will not be immune,” he warned. “Anyone in the Gaza Strip who provides terrorists shelter is taking a very big risk.”