Akiva Van Koningsveld
The Israel Defense Forces will retain full security control over the Gaza Strip after the war with Hamas ends, giving it the freedom to operate there similarly to the way it currently does in Judea and Samaria, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Israeli lawmakers on Tuesday.
“After the war, when it’s over, I think it’s completely clear that Hamas won’t control Gaza. Israel will control [it] militarily, but won’t control it in a civilian sense,” Gallant told members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee during a briefing at his Tel Aviv office.
“When we’re talking about military freedom of operation, look what happened tonight in Jenin,” said Gallant, referring to an IDF raid on the Ibn Sina hospital in the Samaria city on Monday. During the raid, Israeli forces killed three members of a Hamas cell planning imminent terror attacks, according to the IDF.
“This is military freedom of operation at the highest level, and yet we don’t control the area in a civilian sense,” said Gallant, adding that this is achievable in Gaza as well.
Jenin is controlled by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. The United States has insisted that Gaza must also be handed over to the P.A. after the war. However, Israel opposes the restoration of P.A. rule over the enclave because of Ramallah’s overt support for terrorism.
According to a recent survey carried out by Tel Aviv University, 68.9% of the Jewish Israeli public favors IDF security control in Gaza, while a quarter favors rule by international and regional Arab forces. Only 2.2% think the P.A. should be in charge of security in the Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously vowed to retain overall security responsibility for Gaza “for an indefinite period” after the IDF destroys Hamas.
“The massacre on Oct. 7 proved once and for all wherever there is no Israeli security control, terrorism will return and establish itself; therefore, I will not agree to concede security control under any circumstances,” Netanyahu stated during a Nov. 12 press conference.
Netanyahu’s positions put his administration at odds with the Biden White House. Earlier this week, U.S. officials reportedly voiced their opposition to other temporary Israeli security measures inside the Strip, including the establishment of a temporary buffer zone on the border.
IDF continues push into Khan Yunis
Israeli forces operating in southern Gaza destroyed Hamas rocket launchers a day after they fired a heavy barrage at the Tel Aviv area, the IDF said on Tuesday.
Monday’s missile attack triggered sirens in Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, Rishon Letzion and Holon. No injuries were reported, though several cars were damaged.
The launchers were destroyed by Israeli Air Force strikes directed by ground troops. One of the destroyed launchers was deployed alongside mortars ready for firing, the IDF said.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces continue to operate in and around Khan Yunis. The city, Gaza’s second-largest, is regarded as a personal stronghold of Hamas leader in the Strip Yahya Sinwar.
Since Jan. 21, the army has been mounting a massive assault in Khan Yunis, killing scores of terrorist operatives, including company commanders.
On Jan. 23, Israeli ground forces completed the encirclement of Khan Yunis, killing dozens of terrorists in the process.
Israel’s Ynet website on Monday cited a senior security official who said the IDF had destroyed two of the four Hamas battalions operating in the Khan Yunis area. Troops have already killed approximately 3,000 out of the 4,000 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists in Khan Yunis during battles above and below ground, the report added.
In central Gaza, a squad of terrorists armed with rocket-propelled grenades was eliminated by a drone strike after being spotted advancing toward Israeli soldiers.
The IDF reported more terrorists killed and weapons seized in northern Gaza and the Shati area of central Gaza.
The military has killed or wounded at least half of Hamas’s estimated 30,000 terrorist operatives in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said during a visit to the southern border on Monday.
“We have already killed a quarter of the Hamas terrorists, at least, and the same number are wounded,” he told IDF Artillery Corps reservists. “Terrorists remain, and we are fighting against pockets of resistance…it will take months, not one day” to destroy the terror group, he said.
The remaining half of Hamas’s terror army has limited supplies, ammunition and reinforcements, he said, noting that it is becoming harder and harder “for them to take care of themselves” and “their wounded.”
Gallant reiterated that “we have three goals for this war: to eliminate Hamas, to return our hostages and to preserve the unity of the Israeli people. We’re in a long war, but in the end, we will break Hamas.”