Despite the elimination of a top Hamas leader in Beirut and thousands of terrorists in Gaza, “we have not forgotten for a moment that one of the top national goals is the return of the hostages,” said IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
The Israel Defense Forces is in a “very high state of alert in all arenas,” in defense and offense, and is prepared for any scenario, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari stated on Tuesday, soon after reports said Hamas deputy political bureau chief Saleh al-Arouri was killed in a blast in a Beirut apartment.
“The most important thing to say this evening is that we remain focused on fighting Hamas. In Gaza, our forces continue to fight, with a focus on Khan Yunis, over and underground, killing terrorists and destroying infrastructure,” said Hagari.
He added that Israel struck targets in Syria in response to an attack on the Golan Heights. Hagari urged Israeli civilians to remain attentive to Home Front Command instructions.
“We have not forgotten for a moment that one of the top national goals is the return of the hostages,” said Hagari.
Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that the IDF has destroyed 12 Hamas battalions in the northern Gaza Strip, speaking during a visit to meet with Israeli forces there.
Speaking from the Salah al-Din road in Gaza that is being used as a humanitarian evacuation corridor, Galant indicated that the war will soon be shifting phases but is far from ending.
“You are on the corridor—the meaning of this is that from both sides of you will soon be actions of a different kind. From the north, we have destroyed 12 battalions of Hamas. It’s not that all the terrorists are dead, but the framework in which someone can lift binoculars, report back, mortars fall and then the [Hamas] commander sends a maneuvering force, it doesn’t exist. There are still terrorists on the order of a few thousand out of 15,000 or 18,000 that were in the sector,” said Galant.
Going forward, this means that in northern Gaza, the IDF will focus on fire strikes, entering areas in a targeted manner and special operations. If necessary, he said, “we will hold for a period of time [when] we will decide in the field. But the goal is to exhaust the enemy, to kill him and to create a reality in which we control the territory.”
‘There is a double need for victory’
In southern Gaza, the reality is very different, he stressed to the soldiers, noting that in Khan Younis and its environment, “we are conducting a cross-stage effort. It has nothing to do with the [multi-stage war] process. It is focused on what is above the tunnels in which senior Hamas figures are hiding, in great depths, and therefore, we are already reaching them in all ways and this is happening right now.”
According to Gallant, the IDF is currently isolating the Khan Yunis area, and the effort will continue as a sustained effort.
The IDF’s changing actions are a reflection of the latest assessments, he said, noting that the impression that the war is coming to an end is unfounded.
“There is a double need for victory in the campaign: the first, to exact a price and ensure that those [Israelis] who live near the Gaza Strip can [continue to] do so. But more importantly—if you don’t end with a clear victory in an event where there are about 1,500 casualties and abductees, you cannot live in the Middle East because tomorrow someone else will come. Therefore, we are determined to achieve the goal,” Gallant vowed.
“The results will be clear results. We are finishing this campaign when Hamas no longer functions as a governing body and certainly not as a military framework that sends forces,” he told the troops.
In parallel to that, Israel is watching other threats, he said, “the first and most prominent of which is what is happening in the north. For this issue, we will start a process of preparation, and we are all the time with an eye in the binoculars and a finger on the trigger regarding what happens.”
Image: Israeli soldiers fire mortar shells towards targets in the Gaza Strip, Jan. 1, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.