The Israel Defense Forces ground offensive is intensifying and expanding, the military announced on Sunday night.
Ground sea and air forces operating in Gaza had killed dozens of terrorists in recent hours, many of them commanders, according to IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
Israeli airstrikes in Gaza are ongoing, aimed at both protecting IDF ground forces and destroying Hamas infrastructure.
Overnight Sunday, an IDF officer was severely injured by an enemy mortar shell in the northern Gaza Strip while engaging terrorists, while a second soldier sustained moderate injuries. Both have been evacuated to hospital, the military announced.
Throughout the day on Sunday, Hamas targeted central Israel with multiple intensive rocket barrages.
On Sunday morning, Hagari said that the IDF was “progressing through the stages of the war according to plan. We are gradually expanding ground activity and the scope of our forces in the Gaza Strip.”
Israel’s ground operation in Gaza was “complex” and involved risk to IDF forces, said Hagari, adding that the military will do everything we can from the air, sea and land to ensure the safety of our forces and achieve the goals of the war.”
Between Saturday and Sunday mornings, the Israel Air Force struck over 450 Hamas targets in Gaza. Targets included operational command centers, observation posts, and anti-tank missile launch posts.
IDF: Criticism of Hamas leaders growing
“In recent weeks we proved that Hamas is using civilians in Gaza cynically and is committing crimes against humanity,” said Hagari on Sunday night, particularly in its use of hospitals, schools and other humanitarian sites.
The populace in Gaza shares this view, he added. The Palestinian population is saying that Hamas’s Gaza commander Yahya Sinwar “doesn’t care about them” except as human shields, said Hagari.
“Sinwar brought disaster to Gaza, he lost control, and he is the one responsible for Gaza’s collapse. He thinks and acts like a murderer and proved to the whole world that Hamas is worse than Islamic State when he committed the murderous attack of Oct. 7,” he said.
“We will pursue Yahya Sinwar until we reach him,” he added.
Lebanon border skirmishes continue
In the north, a number of projectiles were launched from Lebanon at Israel, prompting IDF fire as well as strikes on Hezbollah infrastructure, said Hagari. The IDF also struck three terror squads in Lebanon that had tried to infiltrate Israel.
“During the night we struck military targets, infrastructure and posts belonging to the Hezbollah terrorist organization,” said Hagari, adding, “the Hezbollah terrorist organization continues to operate against us in the north and we are striking all those who are acting against us. Any Hezbollah terrorist cell that comes near the fence will be hit.”
Hagari said that on Saturday morning Israeli forces had intercepted a surface-to-air missile that had been launched at an Israeli military drone, and had targeted terrorist cells that had fired on Israeli troops.
“All sources of fire were targeted by the IDF, and we also struck additional Hezbollah targets. We continue to remain at a high level of preparedness in the North and ready for any scenario,” he said.
Judea and Samaria
Israeli forces are currently conducting a broad counterterror operation in Judea and Samaria, during which more than 600 Hamas terrorists have been arrested since Oct. 7, said Harari.
He called on the Israeli public to remain vigilant.
‘Gaza civilians took part in Hamas massacre‘
Also on Sunday, the head of the Civil Affairs Department in the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Col. Elad Goren, provided harrowing new details on Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel.
In addition to Hamas terrorists, he said, residents of Gaza “murdered, slaughtered, raped, tortured and burned our citizens. They also invaded the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Office, our base, and murdered three of our soldiers. They did shocking things there that are difficult for me to say,” he said.
“Thousands of Palestinians passed through Erez Crossing every day to enter Israel for medical treatment and more. Our soldiers are the ones who provided the entry permits for them to enter Israel,” said Goren. “A few days ago, I sat with the father of one of the soldiers who was murdered. He asked me if my son’s job was to help people with medical assistance, why did they murder him? I didn’t know what to tell him. This is Hamas,” he added.
Hamas’s strategy has an operational component and a civilian component, Goren explained.
“As far as Hamas is concerned, the civilians in Gaza are a means to an end. Externally, they are trying to portray a humanitarian crisis to curtail the way the IDF uses its forces, and on the other hand they continue to operate the [Hamas] military system that emphasizes underground terror tunnels next to medical sites that provide health services to Gaza,” he said.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza
COGAT has assembled a team of experts that assesses the humanitarian situation in Gaza and monitors what is in stock and what is missing, said Goren. “We interface every day with international organizations that operate on the ground in Gaza and with their headquarters. Even now, in the next room, I have my officers liaising with all the aid agencies to assess the situation,” he added.
Goren denied that there was a food shortage in Gaza, stating that there is enough food in the enclave to last for weeks. Ninety percent of Gaza’s drinking water is self-sourced, with only 10% coming from Israel via three water supply lines, he said.
“During the Hamas-ISIS massacre, they hit a water line that supplies Gaza. In recent days we opened two lines, and yesterday we delivered 28.5 million liters of water to Gaza,” he said.
While water accessibility is limited, there is enough water in Gaza for the civilian populace, he said. “In the south [of Gaza] there is no problem, there is full accessibility, and in northern Gaza there are several areas where it is a little difficult, but there is enough water and medical equipment there,” he stated.
Hamas is in full control of the distribution of medical equipment in Gaza, said Goren, choosing how much should go to hospitals and when.
Hamas rockets had also taken out nine power lines running from Israel into Gaza, that supplied more power to the enclave than the Gaza power plant does, according to Goren.
Every hospital in Gaza has its own solar-powered electricity system, as well as diesel-fuel generators, he explained. There are other generators located all over the Strip, he said, all of which are controlled by Hamas, which keeps large quantities of diesel fuel in its underground tunnels.
“Hospital administrators in Gaza have been shouting they only have diesel for 24 hours. Twenty-three days have passed and they are still operating because Hamas is supplying them with fuel,” he said. “Hamas has an interest in keeping them running, since hospitals above the ground have become Hamas’s headquarters underground. The hospitals are operational military infrastructure, as we revealed on Friday regarding the Shifa Hospital,” said Goren.
“Hamas does not care about residents of Gaza, some of whom took part in the massacre. In the end we still do what we can to prevent harming civilians. We are not in a fight against the civilians of Gaza. Hamas … prevents them moving from northern Gaza to the south–they prefer them as human shields in shelters and hospitals,” said Goren.
Gaza aid to increase “dramatically” in coming weeks
Meanwhile, Israel is facilitating a U.S.-Egyptian-U.N. mechanism for sending in goods via the Rafah Crossing from Egypt. The trucks first enter Israel’s Nitzana Crossing for security inspection, then continue on to Rafah for distribution.
So far, hundreds of tons water, food and medical supplies have been transferred, said Goren. “In the coming weeks we will increase dramatically the amount of assistance. We have marked out a humanitarian zone in the Khan Younis area of southern Gaza. We recommend that civilian population that evacuate from the north go to this zone.”
COGAT will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation in Gaza, but the main focus of Israel and the IDF is to defeat Hamas, protect Israelis and work to “bring back our people who have been kidnapped and are being held inside Gaza,” Goren stressed.
On Saturday evening, IDF Spokesperson Hagari called the holding of hostages by Hamas a crime against humanity.
“Hamas committed an atrocious massacre and is currently holding hostages. This is a crime against the whole of humanity, and the entire world should join the call to release all of the hostages. All of them,” said Hagari.