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IDF Shifting To Defensive Posture In Gaza

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Military spokesman: “It’s business as usual. Until the order to hold our fire arrives, our ops continue.”

Yaakov Lappin

(JNS)

Ahead of the ceasefire set to begin on Friday, the Israel Defense Forces is likely shifting to a defensive operational posture across northern Gaza.

While it is not yet clear how the force rotations for recharging the units and giving them much-needed respite will proceed, the IDF will likely fortify its current positions and prepare for more defensive engagements, if necessary, during the ceasefire.

IDF International Spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said on Thursday: “Until we’re given the order to hold our fire, our operations are continuing. This is a regular day of operations. The IDF is fighting to dismantle Hamas, based on our operational plan. It’s business as usual.”

Thursday saw IDF operations in the air, on the ground and at sea continue at a regular pace throughout Gaza. Hecht noted that the IDF completed its encirclement of Jabalia, a Hamas hotspot, and continued operations in Beit Lahia, Beit Hanun, Sheikh Zayed and Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood, all in the northern Gaza Strip.

צוות הקרב של חטיבה 401 נלחם ב’עמק הגראדים’ בפאתי ג’באליה וחשף תשתיות תת קרקעיות ואמצעי לחימה מתחת למיטות שינה של ילדים>>https://t.co/FTj58GmfVL pic.twitter.com/dVI46AVKxy

— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) November 23, 2023

“We’re still implementing tactical pauses for evacuations, including in Khan Yunis [in southern Gaza],” said Hecht. “The focus is Hamas; the mission is ongoing until we get a political directive for a potential framework.

“The Indonesian Hospital is also one of our focal points,” he added.

Addressing the arrest of Shifa Hospital‘s director on Thursday, Hecht said, “When we met the hospital director crossing south, we decided to ask him a few questions about why there was so much terrorist activity at his hospital, above ground and underground, to see what he knows.”

He added, “Under Shifa, we found a vast network of tunnels and we’re still uncovering more. Not only in Shifa.”

במסגרת פעילות הכוחות בצפון רצועת עזה, לוחמי יחידת אגוז ביצעו פשיטות ממוקדות על יעדי טרור בלב העיר עזה. במסגרת פעילותם ובהכוונה מודיעינית מדויקת, הכוחות פשטו על יעדי טרור של ארגון הטרור חמאס והשמידו תשתיות טרור>> pic.twitter.com/79GDz1JeZR

— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) November 23, 2023

Meanwhile, units of the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit activated three waterlines from a Gaza desalination plant on Thursday, catering to 50,000 people.

In addition, 109 trucks passed Israel’s security screening at Nitzana en route to Egypt’s Rafah checkpoint and the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, and that number was likely to reach 300 on Thursday, said Hecht.

He described the escalation by Hezbollah on the northern border as “disturbing,” adding, “There were 35 rockets in one salvo this morning. We responded, also with artillery and aircraft and we’ll respond to every one of these shots. In Eilat yesterday, we intercepted a cruise missile with an Israel Air Force jet.”

Hecht cautioned that the situation “could intensify in the north.”

IAF helicopters and fighter jets struck Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure and rocket launch sites in Lebanon on Thursday, and soldiers also used the Iron Sting guided mortar system to strike a Hezbollah terror target.

In addition, an IAF helicopter, a UAV and tanks struck a terrorist cell that fired an anti-tank missile towards the area of Biranit, close to the border with Lebanon, and the launch post from which the missile was struck.

On Wednesday, the IDF expressed confidence in its ability to preserve its operational achievements in the northern Gaza Strip, including Gaza City, during the expected ceasefire with Hamas, designed to facilitate a hostage release deal.

“We will know how to deal with any decision and know how to prepare in such a way that will preserve our operational status, our operational achievements, and also how to protect the framework [for a hostage release],” IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Wednesday night.

Professor Col. (res.) Gabi Siboni, a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, related to the challenges of the ceasefire and ways to overcome them.

“Always, when there is a stoppage, idleness is the mother of all sins for soldiers. It is not good to be idle, hence the forces must be activated, for training, and for conducting after-action reviews of their activity,” said Siboni, who is also a senior consultant to the IDF and other Israeli security organizations, and deputy head of the IDF’s Research Center for Force Deployment and Buildup.

Image: Israeli troops operating in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Nov. 22, 2023. Credit: IDF.

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