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Gallant: ‘We Are Encircling Hamas’s Last Strongholds’

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Of Judea and Samaria, the Israeli Defense Minister says “the arena is secondary to the main effort we are conducting in the Gaza Strip. Similar to what is happening in the north, we have no interest in escalation.”

Yaakov Lappin

(JNS)

Israel is encircling Hamas’s last two strongholds in Sajaiyya and Jabalia in northern Gaza, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Monday.

Hamas considered these areas to be held by “unwinnable battalions,” stated Gallant, adding, “and I’m telling you, they are on the verge of being dismantled. The number of those surrendering in these areas teach us what is happening.”

Those surrendering and leaving their bunkers and tunnels have been telling the Israel Defense Forces that they lack ammunition and food, and feel abandoned by the Hamas leadership, with Gallant reporting that “the leadership is deep underground, and we were sent to die.”

The Hamas terrorists who set out on mass-murder rampages on Oct. 7 now have two choices, Gallant said: “To die or to surrender.”

“With the start of the war, we set two goals: the elimination of Hamas as a military and governmental framework; and to retrieve hostages to their homes, families and county. We will meet these two missions, I promise you,” said Gallant.

He described the war against Hamas as a battle for Israel’s right to continuity, to prosper and for the future of the Jewish people in Israel.

The ability of the IDF to demolish Hamas in Gaza will reflect positively on the security situation in Judea and Samaria and other arenas, Gallant stated earlier on Monday.

Following a situation assessment in Central Command, which is responsible for Judea and Samaria, Gallant stated that the IDF is making significant progress “day and night to fight terrorism and to protect the civilian population. The IDF operates in the refugee camps in order to harm anyone who tries to initiate a terrorist attack. This operation is carried out by regular and reserve personnel in close cooperation with the IDF, Border Guard and General Security Service, in an impressive, precise and quality manner.”

He added that “the entire arena is secondary to the main effort we are conducting in the Gaza Strip. Similar to what is happening in the north, we have no interest in escalation, and we are making all efforts to prevent it.”

“The forces are performing their work well. It is very important that Judea and Samaria remain quiet so that we can complete our mission in the Gaza Strip to eliminate Hamas, to curtail it, to reduce its military and governance capabilities, and to achieve the desired result there. When it becomes clear what the IDF did in Gaza, it will also reflect on Judea and Samaria and all other places.”

‘We want to progress quickly’

On Monday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Ronen Bar and head of the IDF Southern Command Yaron Finkelman entered southern Gaza and held a situation assessment with the Commander of Division 98, Brig. Gen. Dan Golfus, and other IDF commanders.

Halevi described the decision by Hamas operatives to surrender as a reflection of the breaking of the terror organization’s morale, adding that it accelerates Israel’s achievements. “We want to progress quickly. We are deepening the achievement in northern Gaza as well and the entry into southern Gaza—and we’re deepening [progress] underground.”

The Shin Bet director added: “I am glad to encounter the streets of Khan Yunis here, as well as our coordinators and fighters who are working here together. This seems to me to be a war of tunnel shafts. What seems to be special about this war is that it needs to be widespread to collapse the operational and government infrastructure, but also needs to be highly focused to reach our civilians and bring them out. I think no force can stand up to this [Israeli] integration.”

IDF Near Lebanon Border
An Israeli artillery unit fires shells towards Lebanon near Israel’s northern border on Dec. 11, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.

‘Investigations yielded intelligence’

In the north, in response to launches from Lebanon towards communities in the western Galilee earlier on Monday, Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck a Hezbollah military site.

Also on Monday, a terrorist cell fired towards Shtula in northern Israel. In response, an IDF aircraft struck the terrorist cell.

A few minutes later, an IDF aircraft struck a military post in response to shots fired from it towards the area of Yiftah.

Furthermore, following an initial report regarding sirens sounding in Shtula, a mortar shell was fired and landed in an open area.

Since the end of the operational pause, the IDF and Shin Bet apprehended approximately 140 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists in the Gaza Strip, said the military. Some voluntarily turned themselves in and were transferred by field interrogators from Unit 504 in the Intelligence Directorate and the Shin Bet for further questioning.

In the past month, a total of more than 350 Hamas terrorist operatives were apprehended by the IDF and Shin Bet. In addition, more than 120 Islamic Jihad terrorist operatives were apprehended. Overall, 500-plus terrorist operatives were apprehended in the Gaza Strip and were transferred to Israeli territory for further questioning.

“Some of the terrorist operatives were apprehended while hiding inside civilian buildings, schools and shelters. The investigations yielded intelligence that assisted in locating additional terrorist operatives, as well as the security of IDF troops,” the military said.

Image: An Israeli artillery unit fires shells towards Lebanon near Israel’s northern border on Dec. 11, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.

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