Now on the brink of reaching 120 days of war (which will happen this weekend), Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has claimed in fresh comments that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have destroyed about two-thirds of Hamas’ fighting force.
He said in the remarks that the military has effectively neutralized 20,000 of the estimated pre-conflict total of around 30,000 fighters. He essentially declared the defeat of Hamas in their southern stronghold of Khan Younis, saying that in addition to the 10,000 killed there’s been another some 10,000 wounded. Currently, there is no way of verifying this and Hamas does not publish on its own casualty rates.
“Hamas’ Khan Younis Brigade boasted that it would stand against the IDF,” Gallant said, but then declared instead the group has been “dismantled.”
“I am telling you here, we are completing the mission in Khan Younis and we will also reach Rafah and eliminate everyone there who is a terrorist who is trying to harm us,” Gallant told a gathering of Israeli soldiers in Gaza.
He additionally assessed that IDF gains in Khan Younis are “very impressive” and said the end result has been that Hamas doesn’t “have ammunition, they don’t have the ability to treat the wounded.” The defense chief added: “They have 10,000 dead terrorists and another 10,000 wounded who are not functioning. It’s a blow that is eroding their ability [to fight], but you have to reach all the places.”
According to figures cited in the Jerusalem Post, “If true, along with the close to 2,500 Hamas terrorists who have been arrested, the percentage of Hamas forces out of commission would now be up to between 56-75%, up from 48-64% around 10 days ago, presuming Hamas’ forces pre-war were between 30,000-40,000.”
Gallant concluded his remarks by saying the military will target Rafah next for a ground operation, which is the southern most city in the Gaza Strip, on the border with Egypt.
The IDF’s current death toll since the start of the ground offensive in Gaza is 224; however, many even Israeli sources believe the real death toll could be significantly higher, given Hamas’ demonstrated effectiveness at carrying out devastating ambushes in small teams, often from the tunnel system.
Palestinians say that with hundreds of thousands of refugees crowded into Rafah, and with nowhere to go, they may have no choice other than to climb the border fence and pour into Egypt.
“Israeli forces shelled the outskirts of the last refuge on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip on Friday, where the displaced, penned against the border fence in their hundreds of thousands, said they feared a new assault with nowhere left to flee,” Reuters writes.
⚡️Absolute destruction of northern Gaza, video from this morning pic.twitter.com/APWiC5KMQp
— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) February 2, 2024
“More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are now homeless and crammed into Rafah,” the report documents. “Tens of thousands more have arrived in recent days, carrying belongings in their arms and pulling children on carts, since Israeli forces launched one of the biggest assaults of the war last week to capture adjacent Khan Younis, the main southern city.”
Despite the mounting humanitarian crisis, and a reported death toll which has surpassed 27,000 – mostly civilians according to Palestinian sources, there has been no change in Biden administration policy regarding to support to Israel. This has resulted in fierce backlash among Progressive Democrats especially, and is an issue expected to erode his base going into the November election.