Hezbollah increases attacks, IDF degrades Hamas battalions

Hezbollah carried out attacks on northern Israel on November 20. The first occurred in the morning toward a number of border areas stretching from the small Bedouin town of Arab al-Aramshe to Biranit and Aramshe. Social media accounts claimed that one rocket launched caused damage near Biranit. The IDF said “as a result of the launches toward the area of Biranit, a fire broke out. IDF and Israel Fire and Rescue Services are at the scene.” 

The IDF carried out retaliatory fire to each assault. The IDF published a video of one of the retaliatory strikes. In the second round of Hezbollah attacks, more than 25 rockets were launched. “In response to the launches toward Israeli territory earlier today, IDF tanks, a fighter jet, and a helicopter struck Hezbollah terror infrastructure in Lebanon,” the IDF said.  

Weather across Israel was stormy on Monday, continuing a weekend storm that has brought rain and flooding. The IDF has distributed winter gear to soldiers, particularly in northern Israel. A senior IDF official asked about the bad weather during a briefing to be reported on Monday and noted that the weather affects both Israel and Israel’s enemies. The IDF “can fight in winter,” he asserted. Nevertheless, the weather poses a challenge. When I visited an artillery unit on the border of Gaza last year, the shells had to be covered as a brief rain set in. The fields around Gaza will now turn to mud, and Gaza is susceptible to flooding. This can also exacerbate humanitarian issues in southern Gaza, where many people have fled. Numerous countries are sending aid to Gaza via Egypt. France’s Minister of Defense also said on Monday that Paris is sending the Dixmude helicopter carrier to provide humanitarian support off the coast of Egypt.  

On Monday night, November 20, several rockets were fired from Gaza at central Israel. Israel used both its Iron Dome and David’s Sling air defense systems to shoot down the threats, the IDF said. David’s Sling is a medium-range interceptor, the middle tier in Israel’s multi-tiered air defense array. “David’s Sling is a groundbreaking air defense solution that continues to prove itself on the battlefield,” Shachar Shohat, Vice President for Strategy and Business Development at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, said in a written statement. “The system is playing a crucial role in defending Israel throughout the current conflict over the last month and continues to do so – with remarkable achievements in intercepting a variety of threats,” Shohat noted. Israel has also used the Arrow air defense system several times during the recent war. Arrow and David’s Sling were jointly developed with the United States. Arrow was sold to Germany earlier this year, and David’s Sling was sold to Finland. “Finalizing this agreement with our partners in Finland is a historic event, and we are confident that they will also be able to benefit from the system’s combat-proven capabilities,” Shohat said.  

The IDF briefing Monday with the IDF official, whose name was not provided by the IDF for security reasons, included details about the impact of ground operations on Hamas battalions. Hamas is organized primarily at the battalion level in Gaza, the officer noted. This is because Hamas only has around 30,000 operatives, according to a subsequent statement from the IDF. As such, it doesn’t have enough men to have numerous “divisions” of fighters. It also fights in a small area. In northern Gaza, where Hamas is now cut off and surrounded from its operatives in the south, ten Hamas battalions have been affected by fighting, the IDF said. Some of these have suffered heavy casualties. With an estimated strength of up to 1,000 fighters per battalion, some have suffered hundreds of casualties. The IDF has also detained hundreds of alleged terrorists in three weeks of ground operations.  

“The IDF, under the guidance of the Intelligence Directorate, works tirelessly to strike the terrorist organization’s operatives across ranks to substantially weaken its capabilities,” the IDF said. The new report provides some insight into Hamas’ capabilities. Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had said on November 4 that 12 Hamas battalion commanders had already been eliminated. The IDF assesses that Hamas has 140 companies of fighters. In addition, Hamas has various specialized groups with anti-tank missiles, snipers, air defenses, and naval commandos. Israel targeted many of these groups and their commanders over the last month and a half. 

The IDF pointed to several examples of Hamas battalions suffering heavy losses. These included the Shati battalion and the Daraj Tuffah battalion. The Shati battalion was located in the Shati neighborhood, a densely populated area near the beach northwest of Gaza City. It was founded as a refugee camp, and refugee camps have historically been centers of Palestinian political and militant activity. Israel sent tanks and infantry into the area beginning on November 10. The Shati battalion lost “200 terrorists,” the IDF said on November 20. “The battalion is responsible for several central headquarters, including the Shifa Hospital, which is used as a main command center for Hamas activity inside the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said. These are all areas the IDF has focused on in recent ground operations. The other battalion, the Daraj Tuffah unit, lost 260 men, the IDF said. “This constitutes a major blow to the battalion’s abilities,” the IDF said. 

Israel Defense Forces armored and infantry units also operated south of Gaza City in the Zaytun area on November 20. This is the IDF 36th division’s area of operation as it moves north toward Gaza City. At the same time, Gaza City is also being pressured from the north and west. The IDF said that “troops have encountered an enemy that is entrenched in the heart of residential neighborhoods, hospitals, schools and kindergartens, and attacks from within civilian infrastructure.” The same IDF statement said that the headquarters of the Hamas Gaza City brigade was destroyed in this battle in Zaytun. 65 IDF soldiers have fallen in ground operations, and 388 have been killed since the Hamas attack on October 7.  

The IDF stressed that these units cannot replace these losses. Surrounded in Gaza City, Hamas doesn’t have access to fresh recruits. More than a million people have left northern Gaza for the south, the IDF estimates. The IDF has been asking civilians to leave since early October. Rocket fire from northern Gaza has also been reduced to near zero, the IDF said.  

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 

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