Israel’s military objective of wiping out the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza and launched the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel remains elusive, as the group’s fighters and leaders survive the Israeli onslaught.
Israel’s military said on Monday that it has opened a new front in its war in Gaza, as it intensified its air and ground bombardment of the southern part of the enclave, where it expects to face fierce resistance from Hamas. Israel also ordered more civilians to leave their homes in south Gaza, where it said it would strike with “no less strength” than the north, which has been devastated by the Israeli offensive.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that its operation aims to restore security and stability to Israel and to the region, and to achieve its stated military objective: the total destruction of the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza and spearheaded the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, which killed more than 1,200 Israelis and wounded thousands more. The IDF said that it holds Hamas responsible for the escalation and the suffering of the civilians in Gaza, and that it will not stop until it eliminates the group.
Hamas Militants Intact
However, despite the massive and relentless Israeli attacks, which have killed more than 15,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 50,000 in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, Hamas remains largely intact and defiant, and continues to pose a serious threat to Israel. According to three Israeli security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, at least 5,000 Hamas militants have been killed, leaving the majority of the group’s estimated 30,000-strong military wing intact.
The officials said that Hamas has managed to survive and resist the Israeli offensive by using its extensive and sophisticated network of tunnels, which it calls the “Gaza metro”, to move, store and launch rockets, as well as to hide its leaders and hostages. The officials said that the tunnels, which run under the entire Gaza Strip, are hard to detect and destroy, and that some of them may have survived or been rebuilt by Hamas.
The officials also said that Hamas has maintained its command and control structure, and that most of its senior leaders and commanders are still alive and active. The officials said that Hamas has also preserved its arsenal of rockets, which it has fired at Israel throughout the war, reaching as far as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. The officials said that Hamas has also retained its popular support and legitimacy among the Palestinians in Gaza, who view it as a resistance movement against the Israeli occupation and blockade.
The officials said that Israel faces a dilemma in its war against Hamas, as it has to balance its military and political objectives, as well as its domestic and international pressures. The officials said that Israel wants to inflict maximum damage on Hamas, but also to avoid excessive civilian casualties and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which could undermine its moral and legal standing, and provoke international condemnation and intervention. The officials said that Israel also wants to end the war as soon as possible, but also to ensure a lasting and favorable outcome, which could secure its security and deterrence, and boost its public and diplomatic image.