analysisIsrael at War

IDF paves way for a ground offensive, but could Hamas escape with civilians?

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated that Hamas terrorists have two options: Be killed or surrender unconditionally.

A convoy of military vehicles seen near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on Oct. 15, 2023. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90.
A convoy of military vehicles seen near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on Oct. 15, 2023. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon/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.

As the Israel Defense Forces continue to wait for the security cabinet’s decision to move into Gaza to destroy the Hamas terrorist army, the Israeli military is likely gathering further intelligence on the enemy and preparing its ground forces for entry in increasingly better ways.

At the same time, Hamas’s terror army can further fortify itself—or even escape under the cover of the Gazan civilian population moving from the north of the Strip southwards in line with the IDF’s evacuation call, designed to strip Hamas of its mass human shielding.

In the meantime, the Israeli Air Force is continuing its high-paced tempo of strikes on targets.

Visiting an F-35 fighter-jet squadron at the Nevatim Airbase on Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said: “Hamas terrorists have two options: be killed or surrender with no conditions. There is no third option. We will destroy the Hamas [terrorist] organization and strip it of its capabilities.”

The IDF is reporting very high reservist turnout rates. The divisions, for example, said they received a 120% turnout rate.

“After several days of combat and the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of reservists with the support of an extensive logistical effort, IDF forces are preparing to implement a wide range of offensive plans,” the military stated. “Multiple reserve battalions have been mobilized for defense missions in the communities in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip.”

One of the division commanders said that “the units of the division have been in combat over the past week and are currently training for the next stages. I trust that the reservists, together with soldiers in mandatory service, will defeat Hamas. The learning curve for the reservists is very fast. We feel their maturity and motivation. My role is to stay focused on the mission and perform it as best as possible according to our abilities. We will do whatever is necessary, and for those for whom it was not clear, now it is.”

Nevatim Airbase. File photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90.

‘This will not be a short war’

Also on Tuesday, the IAF and the Shin Bet intelligence agency announced that an Israeli airstrike killed a senior Hamas operative, Ayman Nofal, who was commander of Hamas’s Central Brigade in the Gaza Strip and the former head of Hamas military intelligence.

“Nofal directed many attacks against Israel and security forces, along with directing Hamas’s rocket targets, aiming for areas populated by uninvolved civilians,” said the IDF.

In the past, Nofal was responsible for overseeing the manufacturing and developing of weapons; promoted and took part in many terrorist attacks; and was also involved in planning the 2006 abduction to Gaza of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

“Nofel was one of the most dominant figures in the terrorist organization and was close to Mohammed Deif [Hamas’s military commander],” said the IDF.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, took responsibility for the catastrophic intelligence failure that enabled Hamas to surprise Israel with a mass murder assault on Oct. 7 in the south.

“In all of my visits to the units of the Intelligence Directorate over the last 11 days, I reiterated again and again that the start of this war was due to an intelligence failure,” he said. “The Intelligence Directorate, under my command, failed to provide warning of Hamas’s terrorist attack. We did not fulfill our most important mission, and as the head of the Intelligence Directorate, I take full responsibility for the failure. The things that need to be investigated will be thoroughly investigated at the proper time, and conclusions will be drawn. But for now, we have one mission facing us—to fight back and win the war!”

Haliva added: “This will not be a short war. Difficult days are ahead of us. This coming period will be challenging for you in a way we have not experienced for many years. We are expected to maintain professionalism, excellence and wisdom, and just as much leadership, strength and determination. That is the only way we will prevail facing the challenge ahead of us.”

 Meanwhile, the Lebanese arena north of Israel continued to heat up with anti-tank missile attacks targeting the Israeli border throughout the day. One attack injured three Israelis—two IDF soldiers and a civilian. The IDF responded with artillery fire and what appears to have been airstrikes.

Hezbollah announced that four of its operatives had been killed by IDF fire, though it did not say when. The terrorist organization steeped in Lebanon previously declared in the course of the week that three of its operatives were killed in combat, bringing the total to seven known Hezbollah casualties.

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