After securing the border, Israel’s military turns to destroying terrorist infrastructure in Gaza
‘The current dynamic is that the scope will be bigger than ever before and much more severe. The paradigm has changed, and Israel is going to respond severely,’ IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told journalists on Tuesday
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images
After finally securing its southern border, the Israeli military is now turning its attention to destroying critical points belonging to Hamas and other terrorist groups inside the Palestinian enclave, IDF international spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told journalists on Tuesday morning.
Hecht said that a total of 34 army battalions — four divisions — had already been fully deployed to the area and were in the process of building infrastructure for future operations. Some 300,00 reservist soldiers have been called up so far. In addition, he said, the evacuation of the remaining civilian residents from Israeli communities around the Gaza border had nearly been completed.
Overnight, dozens of IDF fighter jets struck more than 200 targets belonging to terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, with a focus on the neighborhoods of Rimal and Khan Yunis, which are “used as terror hubs for the Hamas terrorist organization” and are where many of the terror attacks against Israel originated, the army said in a statement.
Among the targets were sites belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Khan Yunis, a Hamas weapons storage site that was located inside a mosque and operational terror infrastructure used by Hamas operatives, the army said. A residence belonging to a Hamas operative and buildings used by the terrorist group’s senior officials, including a multi-story building in the Al-Forqan area, were also destroyed.
In Gaza, the Palestinian Health Information Center reported that some 687 people had been killed, and that there were severe shortages of critical medications, disposable medical equipment, and fuel.
Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who on Monday toured areas that were attacked, ordered a complete closure of the Strip.
“There will be no electricity, food or fuel [delivered to Gaza],” he said in a statement. “We are fighting barbaric [terrorists] and will respond accordingly.” In addition, Energy Minister Israel Katz said he had instructed authorities to immediately cut off the water supply from Israel to Gaza.
Hecht said that the army was still working surgically in Gaza, advising civilians there to leave certain areas where suspected terrorists were hiding or terrorist infrastructure had been placed.
“They can’t leave the Strip, so we tell them to move a kilometer north or east,” he said.
In northern Israel, the spokesman said there was also tension along the border with Lebanon after an infiltration yesterday by three Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists, which killed three Israeli soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel.
“There were still a few mortars this morning but it is now quiet,” said Hecht, adding that the army was still on high alert in the area via air and sea.
In a statement on Monday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin warned Israel’s other adversaries in the region to “think twice and not take advantage of the instability.” He also said that the U.S. unequivocally supports Israel’s right to defend itself.
The statement added that the Defense Department was working to expedite the shipment of military equipment that the Israelis had already ordered and that it was bolstering the U.S. presence in the region, including sending the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
“The force will conduct maritime and air operations in order to assure allies and partners throughout the region and ensure regional stability,” the statement said, adding that Austin had also ordered more Air Force F-35, F-15, F-16 and A-10 fighter aircraft to squadrons in the region.
Hecht said that IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi had spoken with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, who also issued a warning on Monday to Israel’s adversaries, namely Iran, not to get involved.
“The IDF is handling the intel but having the Americans there also sends a message to those further away to stay out of this,” Hecht emphasized.
In terms of casualties from Saturday’s mass terror attack, Hecht said there was still no definitive number of those being held hostage inside Gaza or any information on the fate of those still missing, but noted that the army had established a national crisis center headed by two major generals, Nitzan Alon and Lior Carmeli, who are reaching out to the families still trying to discern the fate of their loved ones.
Hecht also confirmed reports that some of the families had been receiving messages and phone calls from Hamas. On Monday, a Hamas spokesman warned that if Israel launched a full offensive into Gaza, the terror group would begin to live execute the hostages.
“If Hamas harms even one of these hostages it will not make the situation any better for them,” said Hecht, adding “It’s part of the psychological warfare being waged by these terrorists.”
More than 900 people were killed in Saturday’s brutal attack, Israel’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday, and a further 2800 were injured, some still in critical condition. In Kibbutz Be’eri, a community of 1,000 people, 100 bodies were recovered, Israeli rescue agency Zaka said. At the site of the rave party, near Kibbutz Re’im, a further 260 were found.
Hecht confirmed that more than 1,500 Palestinian terrorists were killed on Israeli territory, and the army on Monday released some of the bodycam footage from the terrorists. The disturbing clips detailed how the attack was carried out and showed the extent of the carnage that was waged inside Israeli border communities.
“The level of atrocity here is so high, it is no longer a mindset of tit-for-tat between Israel and Gaza,” said Hecht. “The dynamic is that the scope will be bigger than ever before and much more severe. The paradigm has changed, and Israel is going to respond severely.”
On Monday, the Homefront Command sent Israelis into a panic after releasing guidelines for the possibility of a long war. They retracted part of their advice after mass buying in supermarkets left shelves empty.