newsIsrael at War

IDF will ‘know how to return’ to combat after a ceasefire ends

"We will return to fight with a determination that will not be less than the one we used before," Israeli army chief Herzi Halevi assured.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to troops at the Gaza border, Feb. 13, 2024. Credit: IDF.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to troops at the Gaza border, Feb. 13, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi said on Tuesday that the military will “know how to return” to combat operations against Hamas in Gaza should Jerusalem approve a ceasefire agreement.

A high-ranking Israeli delegation led by David Barnea, head of the Mossad intelligence agency, was in Cairo on Tuesday for talks with American, Qatari and Egyptian mediators on a possible deal to free the remaining 134 hostages held by the terrorist group during a pause in fighting.

“If this agreement involves a cessation of hostilities, as was the case with the previous agreement, we will know very quickly and clearly, as soon as it is necessary at the end of the deal or upon its termination, we will return to fight with a determination that will not be less than the one we had before and after the first agreement [in November], so that we will know to return whenever necessary,” Halevi assured during a visit with troops at the Gaza border.

The army has been instructed to prepare for an incursion into the last Hamas stronghold of Rafah on the Egyptian border to dismantle the remaining terrorist battalions and destroy the arms-smuggling tunnels. Meanwhile, Israeli forces are deepening their grip on nearby Khan Yunis after weeks of intense fighting and continuing to engage terrorists in central Gaza.

“In the south of the Gaza Strip, in Khan Yunis, we reach places that the enemy never imagined we would reach. All of Hamas’s strategic assets are being destroyed in the city that was considered the terror capital of the organization. We have, so far, eliminated over 10,000 terrorists, including many commanders. This is the meaning of dismantling Hamas,” Halevi said.

Israeli troops during operational activity in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 13, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Halevi cautioned however that despite the military achievements so far, the goals of the war were far from being realized.

“We need to harm the senior leadership, kill more of the enemy’s commanders and operatives, return the residents to their homes safely, and return all the abductees home—a supreme mission and our moral duty,” he said.

Additionally, the IDF chief discussed the successful rescue of two Israeli hostages early Monday in Rafah while emphasizing the importance of continued military pressure on the terrorist group to free the remaining captives taken during the Oct. 7 massacre.

“If we do not continue to attack Hamas with determination, it will be very difficult to end the war by returning the abductees. We are very determined to bring home the 134 abductees,” he said.

Furthermore, Halevi turned his attention to the hundreds of thousands of Israelis in the south and also near Lebanon in the north who were evacuated from their homes during the war, saying that the mission is to enable their safe return and to restore their trust.

Asked about the security reality near the Gaza border for residents who want to return there, Halevi answered that it is “immeasurably better” than on Oct. 7 and on the day before the Hamas attack, highlighting the importance of the now more than four-month-old military campaign in Gaza.

“The big change that really happened is that the enemy force on the other side is a significantly reduced force. We damaged most of his capabilities and we continue to deepen the achievement, damage, destroy capabilities and damage the activists,” Halevi said.

“I’m really convinced that we’re building a much safer reality here, and I think that the residents of the surrounding area will be able to return here safely,” he said.

“The IDF will defend here, it attacks so that there will be fewer challenges, it will always defend against any possible challenge, and with the lessons we learn from the October 7 events, it is our duty to defend in a better way.”

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