IDF sees one of deadliest days since war with Hamas

IDF sees one of deadliest days since war with Hamas
IDF sees one of deadliest days since war with Hamas

The Israeli military and Palestinian officials are reporting heavy losses in intense fighting in the Gaza Strip, as Israel faces pressure to quickly achieve its goal of eliminating Hamas.

Describing one of the deadliest days for Israeli forces in Gaza since the war began two months ago, Israel said Wednesday that 10 soldiers were killed the previous day in the northern part of the enclave in a battle featuring face-to-face urban combat with Hamas fighters.

Since the start of the war, 115 Israeli soldiers have died and around 600 have been injured in Gaza, according to the Israeli military. That is a greater number of casualties than Israel’s military experienced in previous Gaza ground offensives. At least 20 of the Israeli military fatalities were accidents, mostly the result of friendly fire.

“I’m worried we will declare victory before winning the war,” said Danny Danon, an Israeli lawmaker in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. “We need to clarify what exactly are the goals of the war, what it really means to win and eradicate Hamas.”

An average of 280 Palestinians are dying in Gaza daily, according to Palestinian authorities. More than 18,600 people in Gaza have been killed in the war, most of them women and children, according to authorities there. The numbers don’t distinguish between civilians and combatants. The Israeli military estimates several thousand Hamas militants have died in the war, which began when the group attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and, according to Israel, killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Israel faces growing direct pressure from the U.S. to wind up active combat operations in Gaza. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, when asked Wednesday if Israel was adapting its war tactics to conform with American requests to minimize civilian casualties, said that “no one decides for us how to act.”
“I think we’ll find the way to help the Americans help us. They want us to succeed,” he added.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan plans to visit Israel on Thursday, and said he would speak with Netanyahu about timetables for ending major combat.

Sullivan said this doesn’t mean Israel must stop going after Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group. “It just means that you move to a different phase from the kind of high-intensity operations that we see today,” Sullivan said Tuesday during an appearance at a forum hosted by The Wall Street Journal.

Biden and Netanyahu sparred on Tuesday over who should govern the Gaza Strip after the war. Biden said his administration would like the Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the West Bank, to take control over Gaza. Netanyahu forcefully rejected the U.S. proposal. He previously said the Israeli military was planning to maintain indefinite control of the strip.

Despite the high death tolls in Gaza, neither Israel nor Hamas appears willing to back down from fighting soon, and each is pressing the other to surrender.

Hamas has cast the recent Israeli fatalities as a propaganda victory.

“Your failed leadership has no regard for the lives of your soldiers,” the group said on Wednesday. “You have no choice but to withdraw from Gaza. The longer you stay there, the greater the bill of your deaths and losses will be.”

The higher Israeli casualties reflect a shift in the military’s war tactics, with a greater focus on urban, ground combat and more targeted operations. In the earlier weeks of the war, Israel relied almost exclusively on air bombardments.

“The more widely we operate as we do in the strip, the more encounters we have [with militants] and unfortunately the more wounded,” said Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari. He said the fighting also leads to many militants being killed or surrendering.

Conducting warfare house to house and “checking things from up close instead of destroying them from far away” is part of Israel’s strategy to reduce civilian casualties, said Shalom Ben Hanan, a former senior Israeli intelligence official. But that is coming at a price for Israeli troops, and in military and security circles some are beginning to question the strategy, he said.

“I’m already hearing criticism that it’s not OK, and we have to fight differently, that we have to fight in a way that is safer for IDF soldiers,” said Ben Hanan, who is in touch with his former colleagues. They are asking “if it is essential to battle this way, versus with tanks and planes.”

Some military analysts say Israel would need at least two more months to effectively achieve its goal of rooting out Hamas and eliminating the threat it poses to Israel.

“If we have until the end of January, we will most likely achieve the strategic aim of dismantling the bulk of Hamas’s military capabilities,” said Miri Eisin, a retired colonel in Israel’s military intelligence. Israel’s second war goal—recovering 135 hostages its military says have been held in Gaza since Oct. 7—will likely require negotiations, which Israel may try to force with more military action, she added.

One of Israel’s biggest outstanding challenges is to dismantle Hamas’s roughly 300-mile-long underground tunnel network, critical for the group to move fighters and supplies, she said. On Tuesday, Israel began flooding it with seawater.

With intense air bombardments and ground combat taking place in northern and southern Gaza—and the healthcare system disintegrating—the war is entering a deadly new phase.

Israel’s forces are closing in on Jabalia in northern Gaza and the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, the site of some of the fiercest fighting of the war so far, where Israel says Hamas keeps some of its top fighters.

Several soldiers, including a senior officer, were killed during an intense weeklong battle against militants in Shujaiya, the military said Wednesday, describing it as a complex battle space that posed significant challenges to maneuvering forces.

During the battle, Hamas militants threw explosive charges at Israeli troops and fired from residential buildings, it said. “Hamas terrorists operate from within civilian infrastructure and the neighborhood is saturated with underground” tunnels, it said.

The Israeli military said Wednesday it struck 250 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip over the past day.

Since a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas ended two weeks ago, fighting has picked up in the south of the enclave, with Israeli forces engaging in close combat with Hamas militants in and around the southern city of Khan Younis.

The collapse of Gaza’s healthcare system is making it increasingly hard to treat injured civilians. Of Gaza’s 36 hospitals, 11 are now functioning, only one of them in the north, according to the World Health Organization.

A shortage of clean water and medicine and overcrowding in the south of the strip is contributing to the disastrous healthcare situation in Gaza, with diseases including acute respiratory infections and chickenpox spreading rapidly, according to the United Nations.

In northern Gaza, medical staff at Kamal Adwan Hospital said Wednesday that people there, including 3,000 displaced Gazans, were desperate for basic goods. Israel raided the hospital on Tuesday, accusing militants of sheltering there.

People sheltering at Kamal Adwan have had no electricity or water supply for five days, Hussam Abu Safiya, a pediatrician working at the hospital for the American nonprofit MedGlobal, said Wednesday in a message to colleagues viewed by the Journal. “Please send a distress call in need of fuel, electricity and water. The children cry from hunger and thirst. We are dying slowly,” he said.

The distribution of aid has largely stopped in most of the enclave because of the fighting and restricted road access, the U.N. said.

Israeli forces are also stepping up military operations in the West Bank, in response to what they describe as increased terrorist activity there. The Israeli military said Wednesday that during a 30-hour operation in the refugee camp of Jenin, some 400 buildings were searched and hundreds of suspects arrested. Large quantities of weapons, ammunition and explosives were confiscated, it said.

The U.N. said that at least seven Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy, were killed in the operation, which included a drone strike.

The West Bank has experienced a surge in violence since the start of the war in Gaza, with 271 Palestinians killed in the territory and East Jerusalem, most of them by Israeli forces, according to U.N. data. The death toll makes 2023 the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since at least 2005. Since Oct. 7, four Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in the West Bank, according to the data.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here