This is “Little Gaza,” a fictional city in the desert where Israel trains for war against Hamas

Although the ceasefire was extended for another two days, the The Israeli army continues to train for a ground offensive in the Gaza Stripwhich has promised to continue achieving its goal of dismantling Hamas at a military base that closely replicates the neighborhoods and streets of the Palestinian enclave.

Israeli soldiers surround a house, shouting: They cover each other, throw in a grenade, signal to each other and enter with rifles in hand.. But there are no sounds other than their voices: the grenade doesn’t explode and their guns don’t fire. It looks like war, but it’s not.

It is a training course for the infantry troops of the Israeli Army in the Urban Warfare Training Center, popularly known as the “Urban Warfare Training Center”. “Little Gaza”, built in 2005 after the Second Intifada.

Two tall minarets of a fake mosque stand out among the more than 500 buildings in this fictional Gaza Strip, in which there are up to nine different neighborhoods: the city center with tall buildings, a refugee camp, a rural village, a school, a hospital and even the Hamas tunnels has built underground the enclave, one of Israel’s main targets at this stage of the war.

“Most of our soldiers are now in Gaza and have been trained in this facility, not only in the tunnels but also in the rest of the compound. They are training here and we are perfectly prepared to continue the war,” he told Efe Lieutenant Colonel Mati Shechavch.

Although the training is not new in this military base in Tzeelim, in the middle of the Negev Desert in southern Israel; They have intensified since Israel declared war on Hamas on October 7 following the Islamist group’s brutal attack on Israeli soil that left more than 1,200 people dead and 240 kidnapped.

“Before the land invasion, when we were already at war, thousands of soldiers were trained here and the results were a success, as you can see on the battlefield,” says the lieutenant colonel about the land invasion that Israel made on October 27, after twenty days of intense bombings on the Strip.

In the first fifty days of the war, Israel focused on dismantling Hamas’s military infrastructure in the northern part of the enclave, where it ordered the evacuation of more than a million people to the south and brutally devastated entire cities such as Beit Lahia, Beit Hanun, Jabalia or Gaza City, where Shifa Hospital, the largest in the Strip, was under siege for days.

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Israel initially claimed that Hamas had hidden its headquarters in the hospital basement. So far they have found several tunnels similar to those recreated in “Little Gaza.”

End Hamas and free the hostages

“Our primary goal now and since the beginning of the war has been to bring all those abducted home and to dismantle Hamas. That’s where we continue to focus our efforts.” This ceasefire allowed us to partially complete our first mission and bring some hostages“An army spokeswoman, Fay Goldstein, told EFE.

The parties agreed on a ceasefire, which began last Friday for four days Exchange 50 Israeli hostages for 150 Palestinian prisoners – in both cases only women and children – although last night they agreed to an extension of two more days to facilitate the release of another 20 abducted people.

Therefore, this is to be expected Islamists are handing over around ten hostages today in exchange for Israel releasing around thirty Palestinian prisonersin a similar pattern to the last four days.

In total, Hamas has released 69 prisoners, as the group also released 17 Thais and one Filipino in separate deals; next to a Russian-Israeli man in negotiations with the Russian president, Wladimir Putin; And Israel has released 150 Palestinians – 117 teenagers and 33 womensome of them have been in prison since 2015.

“The hostage taking was made possible by the military successes in the first 50 days of the war. “We dismantled key military infrastructure, killed key group commanders, and located the tunnels under Shifa Hospital, as well as crates full of weapons,” Goldstein summarizes Israeli “military successes” leading up to the first ceasefire.

But if the ceasefire is not extended again from tomorrow, it seems certain that Israel will vigorously resume the military offensive on land, sea and air in the Gaza Strip, and that is exactly what its key authorities have promised by the First Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; even Defense Secretary Yoac Gallant; or the Chief of the General Staff, Herzi Halevi.

“We will continue until the end, until victory. Nothing will stop us.”. “We have the power, the strength, the will and the determination to achieve all the war aims and we will do so,” Netanyahu said on Sunday during his first visit to the Gaza Strip.

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