Two months and one day after the start of this war, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have significantly expanded their offensive in the southern Gaza Strip. On Tuesday they entered the city of Khan Yunis. Meanwhile, Israeli troops and Hamas members continue fighting in some of the last Hamas strongholds in the northern strip, where the Islamists remain in control.
The IDF Southern Command described the fighting over the past 24 hours as the most widespread and intense since the ground assault began in late October. It is known that there are three different divisions in the Luftwaffe-supported offensive. Gaza’s Health Ministry reports more than 16,200 deaths, suggesting they are all civilians, as Hamas does not report casualties among its ranks. However, the Israeli army put the number of Islamist fighters dead at 6,000 in its estimate on Tuesday.
The fighting in Khan Younis has already reached the center of the city and Arab media have reported throughout the day that Israeli tanks are advancing on the city from the north and east. One of Hamas’ five regional brigades is stationed here. Israeli analysts say the brigade consists of four battalions and has suffered little damage in the current offensive. Israel estimates that, at least until recently, Hamas leaders were also in Khan Younis, including Yahya Sinwar.
Israel estimates that Hamas has around 24 battalions fighting in the Gaza Strip. “We reckon with everyone who kidnapped, implicated, murdered, massacred, raped and burned the daughters of our people.” “We will not forget and we will not forgive,” the Israeli prime minister said on Tuesday evening. Benjamin Netanyahu, at a press conference. And he added that “the ground was shaking” in Khan Yunis and Jabalya: “We have surrounded both of them… There is no place we cannot reach.”
An estimated 1.9 million Gazans have sought refuge in the south, more than 80% of Gaza’s 2.2 million population. As more and more displaced families are crowded together on the southern edge of the Rafah area, on the sealed border with Egypt, aid workers warn that shelters are reaching capacity.
The Israeli military said it held a four-hour humanitarian standoff in the Rafah district at midday on Wednesday. “The catastrophic situation we are experiencing in Gaza was entirely foreseeable and avoidable,” said the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Volker Turk, at a press conference. “My humanitarian colleagues have described the situation as apocalyptic.”
Meanwhile, war leaders in Israel estimate it could take another month before enough military pressure is applied to Hamas to open a new window to carry out a covert operation and release more held hostages, Army Radio reported.
The United States expects Israel to complete its large-scale military operations in the southern Gaza Strip in January and then move on to more targeted attacks against terrorists and certain Hamas leaders, it said. cnn. Citing several senior Biden administration officials, the network said the White House was concerned about how the Israeli offensive would unfold in the coming weeks and had warned Israel to limit the damage and civilian casualties .
A senior official quoted in the report also said he was uncomfortable using the word “responsive” to describe Israel’s response to the US advice. “We are in a high-intensity operation in the coming weeks, and then we will probably move to a low-intensity mode,” an unnamed Israeli source told CNN.
Last week, the US Secretary of State, Anthony BlinkenIsrael’s war cabinet warned it likely won’t have months to fight Hamas as domestic and international pressure mounts on President Joe Biden’s administration to end the war.
The Knesset (Parliament) on Wednesday presented plans to allocate just over 30 billion shekels (7.3 billion euros) for the war effort in Gaza, of which 26 billion shekels would be financed by expanding the national debt. The full House approved the plan in the first of three required plenary votes, and then committee deliberations would take place before the final vote. The updated budget for 2023 allocates about NIS 17 billion for the army and NIS 13.3 billion for civil support.
Israeli apology to Lebanon
In a rare statement on Wednesday, the IDF expressed regret for killing a Lebanese soldier while attacking a target linked to the pro-Iranian Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah. It was the first such death since cross-border hostilities began in October.
“The IDF received a report that several Lebanese Army soldiers were injured during the attack (against a Hezbollah launch and observation post). “Lebanese Army forces were not the target of the attack (…) The IDF regrets the incident and is being investigated,” the Israeli military statement said. Earlier, the Lebanese Army reported: “An army military position in the Adayseh area was shelled by the Israeli enemy, martyring one soldier and injuring three others.”