The Israel Defense Forces is ready to “take away” terror organizations and prepared to fight for “as long as it takes” to change the reality in the Gaza Strip, according to a senior IDF commander who took part in some of the first battles to rescue southern Israeli communities following Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault.
Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus, commander of the IDF’s 98th Paratroopers Division, said during a conference call with journalists that while he would not discuss Israel’s next steps, the IDF’s overall approach at the moment was “move forward and attack, go on the offense and attack the Hamas terrorist group and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and any other terror group in Gaza that has decided to pick up a firearm and try to harm Israelis within Israel.”
This, he said, was the IDF’s basic obligation towards the people of Israel.
“My message to my commanders and the government is that our commanders and warriors are ready for any mission. [To] take away these terror groups trying to kill us again and again,” he said.
“And unfortunately they succeeded in killing over 1,000 people, you can’t imagine, the images seen here are just surreal,” he added. “Bodies burning, and it’s just very hard to even talk about.”
Israel, he said, was under attack by “a cruel and vicious enemy that entered our villages, slaughtered women and children in their houses, [in] bed, burning them alive, tying them up and killing them, taking some of them back into Gaza like animals in cages and under threat of death.”
The IDF has spent the past four days clearing Hamas death squads out of Israeli villages, “killing them one by one while they hide in the houses with the civilians. Some of them were playing dead, some of them just using the villages as human shields. Just horrific pictures,” he said.
Among the most horrific scenes, he continued, was the aftermath of the Hamas assault on the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im.
“People came to party [and] were slaughtered. They were burned. They were taken, tied up, burned and shot in the head in a systematic way. This is the most vicious, cruel terror attack that I can recall, in Israel and… at all,” he said.
Hamas, he continued, is not an army or military force but “a terrorist group with no values that attacks women and children and uses these horrific methods to slaughter whatever comes their way.”
Commanders led the initial forces arriving on the scene from the front, with many officers losing their lives.
“We found ourselves surrounded in the villages and from behind us, with terrorists coming in with all kinds of capabilities. We were under very heavy fire. The terrorists were shooting on sight, with no distinction between soldiers, [civilians], women or even children. Everything was a legitimate target from their point of view,” he stated.
As the IDF moves into the offensive stage, it is setting up a range of capabilities for use in the near future, said Goldfus, adding, “Things cannot stay as they were.”
The military has yet to conduct an in-depth debriefing regarding the severe operational and intelligence failures that enabled the south to be overrun by Hamas death squads.
“The fact of the matter is that it occurred. They managed to penetrate our defensive lines and move into villages and once you’re in the villages, it’s very difficult battles among citizens against terrorists, and you have to start cleansing every house and every kindergarten, or even playground,” said Goldfus.
“The fact is that they did it. Why and how—I’m not going into it, I don’t have the exact facts of how they did it, but they came from multiple entries through the barrier, so we’ll have to check ourselves, how they did that exactly, how they surprised us, which had an enormous effect on the results of the first hours with the various battles that occurred here.”
While the IDF will ultimately have to ask itself some “very tough questions,” he said, “before that, we have a mission.” The most important aim of which, he continued, is that “we teach the other side there is no way they can do this without us changing the reality of how this managed to occur.”
Goldfus described the chaos of the initial hours of the attack, with military forces in the area and civilian villages all under assault, making it difficult for commanders to establish which friendly forces were where.
“Commanders like myself came from outside and had to make decisions based on our own understanding. I met the 99th Division commander,” he said, describing how they divided up the area into sectors between them, going from village to village and engaging in battles.
On Tuesday evening, an American plane carrying advanced armaments landed at the Nevatim air base in southern Israel, the IDF said. “The armaments are designed to facilitate significant military operations and increase preparedness for other scenarios,” it added.
The Israeli Air Force meanwhile continued extensive airstrikes across Gaza, hitting some 200 targets in Al Furqan in the third round of strikes on the northern Gaza neighborhood in the past 24 hours.
Al-Furqan “is used as a terror hub for the Hamas terrorist organization, where a large number of terror attacks against Israel are directed [from].”
Earlier on Tuesday, IDF International Spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said the IDF had deployed four divisions to the South, where the military is “building infrastructure for future operations.”
“We should all change paradigms—this is not a small, contained Gazan tit for tat, it’s a game-changer here,” said Hecht.