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Israel expands offensive into southern Gaza


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FDD Long War Journal

Seth Frantzman

December 4, 2023

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The IDF Commander of the Southern Command, Major General Yaron Finkelman, in the Gaza Strip on December 4. (Screenshot of IDF video)

Israel expanded operations into the southern Gaza Strip in the days after a pause in fighting ended on December 1. On Monday, December 4, residents in Gaza reported seeing Israeli tanks heading south along Salah al-Din Street, the major road that stretches north through central Gaza and links Khan Yunis with Gaza City. IDF airstrikes also hit buildings in the Hamad city complex in Khan Yunis on December 2. The offensive into southern Gaza took place as the IDF continued to surround what remained of Hamas fighters in Gaza City. 

The first operations in the south consisted of a naval raid at Khan Yunis marina and in Deir Al-Balah. The IDF said they struck “infrastructure and equipment used by the Hamas Naval Forces.” Those opening moves followed the attack on 400 targets in Gaza overnight from December 1st to the 2nd, of which 50 targets were struck in southern Gaza.  

Israel Chief of Staff Herzi HaLevi visited the IDF’s 162nd division operating in northern Gaza on Sunday and Monday, December 4. During his visit on Sunday, he said the IDF had “dismantled” two Hamas brigades in northern Gaza. “Yesterday, and today, we eliminated brigade commanders, company commanders, many operatives, and yesterday morning we started the same process in the southern Gaza Strip, it will be with no less strength than that, it will be with no less results than that, and Hamas commanders will meet the IDF everywhere in a very, very strong way,” he said.

(Snip)

Israel’s Defense Minister Gallant said on December 2 that Israel’s goal remains the same in Gaza; “defeating Hamas, destroying its governing and military capabilities – not allowing Hamas to continue its rule over Gaza, and returning the hostages to their homes.” In the last several days, Israel has declared that six of the hostages in Gaza were killed. There are still 137 hostages held in Gaza, including eight Thai citizens. IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on December 3 that Israel is focused on mitigating harm to civilians in southern Gaza. The UN estimates around 2 million people in Gaza have been displaced by the fighting, and most of them are now in southern Gaza. The IDF published a special map on December 2 dividing Gaza into zones so that civilians can flee to areas of safety as operations expand in the south. The IDF says 401 soldiers have been killed in action since October 7, seventy-five of them have fallen since the ground operation in Gaza began. Most of the others were killed during the initial Hamas attack on October 7. 

Israel faced threats from Hezbollah after the pause in fighting ended. There have been at least nineteen incidents of rocket launches, mortar fire, and drone threats since December 1, with Israelis injured in several attacks. According to IDF lists of incidents, at least fifteen Israeli communities in the north have been targeted since December 1, and there were two attacks from Syria. In each case, the IDF responded with either artillery or airstrikes. In the Red Sea, three commercial ships were targeted by the Iran-backed Houthis on December 3. This was the most significant number of attacks in a single day by the Houthis, who have carried out numerous attacks in the Red Sea since October 7. In addition, there have now been 76 attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria since October 7.   

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Dec 5, 2023

Bill and Joe are joined again by FDD Senior Fellow and Iran expert Behnam Ben Taleblu to discuss the latest regional updates surrounding Israel's war against Hamas (and then some).

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