The objective, as stated by three senior officers, is to eradicate the uppermost political and military leadership of Hamas, the Palestinian faction that exercises control over Gaza.
The Israeli military is currently making preparations for an imminent invasion of the Gaza Strip. This operation will involve tens of thousands of soldiers who have been given orders to capture Gaza City and dismantle the current leadership of the enclave. These details have been shared by three senior Israeli military officers, who have provided unclassified information about the plan. The military has publicly stated that its primary objective is to eliminate the highest-ranking members of Hamas, the Palestinian group that currently controls Gaza. This group was responsible for the recent terrorist attacks in Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,300 individuals. This upcoming assault is anticipated to be the largest ground operation conducted by Israel since its invasion of Lebanon in 2006. Furthermore, it will be the first time since the invasion of Gaza in 2008 that Israel will attempt to capture and temporarily hold onto land. These facts have been confirmed by the aforementioned senior officers. However, this operation carries significant risks for Israel. Engaging in months of intense urban combat, both on the surface and within a complex network of tunnels, is a precarious endeavor. Israel has historically avoided such offensives due to the challenges posed by fighting in a narrow and densely populated area, home to over 2 million people. Israeli officials have expressed concerns that Hamas may take Israeli hostages, use Palestinian civilians as human shields, and booby trap the territory.
The course of action that Israel will take with regards to Gaza City, which is the stronghold of Hamas and the largest urban center in the enclave, remains uncertain. Additionally, the exact meaning of Israeli officials’ statements regarding the destruction of Hamas’s leadership is unclear. It should be noted that Hamas is considered a terrorist group by both the United States and the European Union, and is not only a militia but also a large social movement that is deeply ingrained within Gazan society. Furthermore, it is uncertain whether Hezbollah, the larger Lebanese militia that is backed by Iran and is allied with Hamas, and possesses a significant number of precision-guided missiles and ground forces, would respond to an invasion of Gaza by opening up a second front with Israel along the Lebanese border.
The military has yet to make a formal declaration regarding its intention to invade Gaza, although it has verified that reconnaissance teams briefly entered the strip on Friday and that Israeli troops are enhancing their preparedness for a ground war. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Hamas gunmen have fortified themselves within hundreds of miles of subterranean tunnels and bunkers beneath Gaza City and the adjacent areas of northern Gaza. Israeli military officials anticipate that Hamas will endeavor to obstruct their advancement by detonating some of those tunnels as Israeli forces progress above them, and by planting improvised explosive devices and rigging buildings with explosives.
On Saturday, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, expressed their objective as “the complete defeat of Hamas and the eradication of its leadership in response to the heinous acts they committed.” Admiral Hagari further emphasized that Hamas would not be allowed to maintain control over Gaza, both in military and political terms. Another military spokesperson highlighted the army’s specific focus on eliminating Yahya Sinwar, the highest-ranking Hamas official, whose offices, along with those of the Hamas government, are situated in Gaza City. Israel holds Mr. Sinwar accountable for the atrocities committed against Israeli citizens last Saturday.