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Gaza War: Day 31

Israeli forces prepare to enter Gaza City

A diplomatic source tells reporters that Israel will likely maintain ‘ultimate security control’ over the Strip after the war.

GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli forces are deployed on the border with Gaza in southern Israel on November 5, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas.

Israeli forces were reportedly preparing to enter Gaza City on Monday after strengthening their perimeter positions over the weekend around the area considered to be the heart of Hamas’ military operations, effectively cutting the Palestinian enclave in two.

IDF updates on Monday said that fighter jets had struck some 450 targets in the Gaza Strip, including tunnel infrastructure, observation posts and anti-tank missile launch posts. The IDF also said that ground forces had taken control of at least one Hamas military compound and killed several of the terror group’s commanders. Among those killed, said the army, was Jamal Mussa, who it said was responsible for Hamas’ special security operations and who had carried out an attack against IDF troops in 1993.

In addition, the Israeli military said eight IDF soldiers were killed in battles in the northern Gaza Strip, bringing the total number of soldiers killed since Israel began its ground incursion a week ago to 33. The army also notified the family of Yam Glass, 20, an observer in the Border Defense Corps who had been thought to be among the 241 hostages in Gaza, that her body had been identified.

While security officials and politicians have stated that the war in Gaza will be lengthy, a diplomatic source told reporters at a briefing on Sunday that Israel will likely maintain “ultimate security control” over the Strip after the war.

Gaza will have to undergo “denazification” to get rid of the culture of wanting to kill Jews, the source told reporters.

Following Hamas’ mass terror attack on Oct. 7, during which the terrorist group killed more than 1,400 people and kidnapped hundreds to Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has drawn comparisons between the terror group and the Nazis; on Sunday, Netanyahu said that the terror group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, “is like a little Hitler in his bunker.” Referring to Hitler saying at the end of World War II that the Germans were weak and didn’t deserve to survive, Netanyahu said that Sinwar “couldn’t care less about his people.”

Such references, a source with knowledge of Netanyahu’s thinking said, are attempts to convey to Israelis opposed to allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza that such a tactic would be an ineffective lever of pressure on the Iran-backed terror group.

Speaking to troops at the Ramon Air Force Base on Sunday, the Israeli leader reiterated his position that there would be no cease-fire without the return of all the hostages.

“This [idea of a ceasefire] should be completely removed from the lexicon,” he said. “We say this to our friends and to our enemies. We will simply continue until we defeat them. We have no alternative.”

International pressure has been mounting on Israel for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting to allow more critical aid to enter Gaza to alleviate what aid agencies say is a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis with up to 1.5 million people reportedly displaced internally.

While several hundred dual nationals and injured people were able to leave Gaza via the Rafah Crossing into Egypt last week, that flow of people stopped over the weekend following safety concerns, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who arrived in the region on Friday for meetings with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, made an unannounced stop in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. 

Blinken reportedly told Abbas about U.S. efforts to get Israeli leaders to “minimize civilian harm” in Gaza, a senior State Department official told journalists. Abbas, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, told Blinken that there should be “an immediate end” to Israel’s war in Gaza and an end to attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank.

In its daily update, OCHA said Sunday that some 141 West Bank Palestinians had been killed by Israeli forces since hostilities began. In Gaza, citing figures from the Hamas-run Health Ministry, the agency said the death toll was now at 9,770.

Two Israelis were injured on Monday morning in a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City, United Hatzalah, an Israeli emergency medical organization reported. The perpetrator was neutralized, said the Israeli police. 

On Sunday, IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari provided journalists with further evidence that Hamas’ military infrastructure was embedded below hospitals in the Gaza Strip. One of the videos shared by the spokesman appeared to show the entrance to a Hamas tunnel on the grounds of the Sheikh Hamad Hospital.

“This is a war crime, and the world knows it’s a war crime,” he said. “Using hospitals for terror infrastructure is against international law and it must come to an end.”

In response to questions about a Red Crescent ambulance that was struck by IDF fire on Saturday, Hagari said that every Israeli strike was carried out based on intelligence information. He said that like hospitals, ambulances are also being used by Hamas for military purposes.

On Friday, The New York Times quoted a Biden administration official as saying that efforts to get Americans and other foreign nationals out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt had initially been held up because Hamas was using ambulances to get its wounded fighters out.

The Palestine Red Crescent on Sunday reported of “relentless and severe” Israeli airstrikes in the vicinity of Al-Quds Hospital in northern Gaza, saying that there had been significant damage to the hospital’s Critical Care Unit and to access roads.

On Sunday, Hagari shared data about efforts made by the IDF to warn the civilian populations of Israeli airstrikes, as well as to urge Gazans to temporarily evacuate their homes and head south. Some 1.5 million leaflets had been dropped over Gaza, in addition to some 20,000 phone calls and 4.4 million text messages to transmit the message, he said.

Later Sunday, in his televised daily briefing, Hagari said that the army had strengthened its positions inside Gaza, dividing the Strip into north and south Gaza, while at the same time encouraging Palestinian civilians to move southward.

“We continue to carry out our ground operation in northern Gaza and the greater Gaza City,” he said, adding that since ground operations started on Oct. 28, the IDF had struck more than 2,500 targets.

The spokesman emphasized that alongside the ongoing military offensive, the army and Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, were still “making a massive effort around the clock,” to locate the hostages who have been held in Gaza for the past 30 days.

“We are collecting every shred of information, taking advantage of every operational opportunity,” he said. “We will continue to address this with the highest national priority. We have entered this war with a great sense of pain and we are dedicated to win and return our loved ones home.”

Briefing reporters on Sunday, a diplomatic source confirmed that Mossad Chief David Barnea visited Qatar last week and that former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen had also met with a regional Arab leader, though no progress had been made in releasing those being held. Contrary to some reports, the source said, there was no concrete offer from Hamas to release the hostages with dual citizenship.

The source said that the IDF’s ground operation was putting pressure on Hamas, but things were “not yet ripe,” and there was no indication that Hamas was ready to release the hostages, including some 30 children. 

Tensions along Israel’s northern border appeared to increase over the weekend, despite Friday’s speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah indicating that the Iranian terror proxy was not ready to launch a full-scale war against Israel.

On Sunday afternoon, Hezbollah fired an anti-tank missile into Israel hitting a water tanker, killing the civilian driver. In response, Israeli attack drones hit a group of Lebanese civilians, reportedly killing a woman and three children.  

Visiting the north on Sunday, IDF Chief of the General Staff Herzi Halevi said the army was ready to strike “at any moment,” although the goal, he said, was “restoring a significantly better security situation at the borders.”

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