Video: Aircraft identifies and eliminates terrorist squad that emerged from tunnel shaft in Khan Yunis/IDF Spokesperson
The maneuver in Gaza, which is expanding south to the Khan Yunis and Rafah areas, intensifies the tension between the two main goals of the war – defeating Hamas and returning the hostages. Although there is a congruence between these two objectives of the war, as well as great identification among the Israeli public, including combatants and reservists, precisely when the fighting is focused on specific areas, and is accompanied by massive fire support from the air and ground artillery, there is an inherent fear that an attack could physically harm the places where the abductees are.
The IDF has already declared that the southern maneuver is led by the "light" division, i.e., a maneuver whose main objective is infantry commando fighting, but still, the intensity of the fire support required to complete the moves, while reducing casualties to our forces, raises concerns of unintentional harm – something that arose from the families of the abductees, especially those who returned from Hamas captivity, and claimed that they felt the intensity of the IDF's attacks.
It is important to emphasize that the combat effort has three accompanying efforts. Beyond the fire effort, there is a significant logistical effort to maintain the combat forces in high readiness and continuity, an intelligence effort to locate the enemy and locate information about the abductees, and a humanitarian effort to isolate the Palestinian population in Gaza while reducing the impact of the fighting on civilians. Of all these, as far as abductees are concerned, the intelligence effort is the most significant, and it takes place through three main channels: the Administration headed by Major General Nitzan Alon, which builds the "puzzle" from all the sources of information that can be cross-referenced; Military Intelligence activity in all areas of collection; and the activity of the forces on the ground. The IDF tries in every way to focus the information on the location of the abductees, and it can be assumed that in places where information is cross-checked, fire will be used at an appropriate level so as not to harm the possible location of abductees.
The abductees claimed to have felt the intensity of the IDF/IDF Spokesperson's attacks
Hamas's rationale for action creates a more difficult dilemma: it can be assumed that some of the abductees are located not far from Hamas headquarters, which, as is known, use the civilian population as human shields. The cruelty of the leaders of this murderous organization is already well known to us, and the question is, what stands before what when information arrives about this or that senior member of the organization who is surrounded by abductees? Here it is clear that the lives of the abductees come first, and this is a statement that has been made more than once, but the dilemma is not simple, and it will bring with it two possible options – a siege on the presumed area, creating pressure and levers, and reaching negotiations on better terms.
The handling of the issue of the abductees has so far made it clear to us that they are being held underground, and therefore they are protected from the main efforts of action accompanied by fire. The operation in the subsoil is a separate effort in which special measures are invested that would not be appropriate to elaborate on here. But it is important to emphasize that the lives of the abductees are not in real danger from IDF fire - and despite everything, mistakes can occur - this is war, and it has implications.
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The cruelty of Hamas leaders is already well known to us. Sinwar/Reuters
To the extent that the effort will focus on senior Hamas figures in whose vicinity abductees will be found, it is clear that the IDF will have two main options – a raid by a special force to harm senior officials while rescuing the abductees, or creating leverage for further negotiations. It is precisely the activity of the light division, which includes units such as "Cherry" and "Egoz", that creates flexibility of action for the IDF in the context of a targeted raid with a special force. These forces are highly qualified to carry out operations of this kind, which by their nature are fraught with risk, but they are the most professional that the IDF has, and perhaps even in the entire world.
The issue of fighting in a densely populated area such as the Gaza Strip, when there are abductees of ours in the hands of the enemy, is very complex, a huge challenge that we have not faced in the past, not on such a scale. However, after two months of fighting and in light of the IDF's performance so far, we are witnessing a high-level operational capability that succeeds in advancing both goals of the war. Hamas's capabilities are dwindling, its forces are being damaged, its commanders are being eliminated every day and its governmental infrastructure is being destroyed. At the same time, the political echelon succeeded, through military pressure, in leading to the release of 40% of the abductees – this output is impressive, it attests to proven ability, and it will be reflected in the coming days as well.
Colonel (res.) Ronen Itzik is a former armored brigade commander and a member of the "Securityists" movement.
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