Israel celebrates breaching ground Hamas didn’t foresee as war enters second month

Seth Frantzman is reporting from Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to members of Israel’s elite Egoz unit on Tuesday, exactly one month after Hamas’ surprise attack on the country flipped the world upside down. The Egoz unit specializes in guerilla-style warfare and is part of Israel’s commando brigade. It uses special weapons and tactics. “I would like to tell you that what we see on the ground, from the reports the War Cabinet and I receive, and the conversations with commanders and soldiers, it is an extraordinary success. I tell you, the Americans were here. They explained to us what was in Fallujah and what was here and there, and they are amazed at what we have achieved,” Netanyahu told the soldiers at a base in the Negev desert.

The Prime Minister admitted there are challenges. “There are UAVs, IEDs and anti-tank fire. That is true. Sometimes there are very painful losses but all in all, the success is phenomenal because we went in there and hit the enemy – this is a great success. We do not intend to stop; we intend to continue to the end,” he said, according to a statement from Israel’s Government Press Office.

Netanyahu also gave an address to the country on Tuesday. He reiterated that there would be no ceasefire in Gaza without the return of the 240 hostages being held by Hamas and other terror groups.

Israel’s former Minister of Defense Benny Gantz spoke to the country as well in a separate statement. He joined the War Cabinet from the opposition early in the war. He stressed that there would be a time for protests or criticism, but that the country should remain united during the war and support the soldiers.  He also referenced the multi-front threats Israel is facing.

That all came as Hezbollah tried to target Israel with an anti-tank missile and fired more than 20 rockets toward northern Israel. The IDF also intercepted “a suspicious aerial target” that flew from Lebanon, likely another Hezbollah drone. Hezbollah has used drones, rockets and anti-tank missile threats often against Israel over the last month. Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy secretary-general, gave an interview to NBC in which he threatened escalation if Israel continues its war in Gaza.

The challenges for Israel and the U.S. continue to grow in the region. Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh flew to Turkey on Tuesday. Haniyeh, who lives in Doha, has already visited Iran and consulted with the Iranian foreign minister in Qatar several times. This week’s meetings in Turkey began as pro-regime Tasnim News media in Iran published an article suggesting that Iranian-backed proxies in Iraq and Syria were working as a “single front” to target U.S. forces in the region and also Israel. There have been 40 attacks so far on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

Israeli leaders hinted that Hamas will no longer run Gaza when the war is over, but Gantz was light on details on who might run the area after the war. Netanyahu told ABC that Israel would control Gaza for an indefinite period and have security responsibility in the future. Meanwhile, CIA director William J. Burns met with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi on Tuesday as well.

Battles continued in Gaza as IDF ground forces dig in and methodically clear terrorist infrastructure. The IDF’s advancement continued to shed light on Hamas using civilian areas to place rocket launchers and dig tunnels. Israel IDF spokesperson Read Admiral Daniel Hagari said Israel has struck 14,000 targets in Gaza since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack which killed 1,400 people in Israel. More than 100 tunnels have also been destroyed.

Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Tuesday that Gaza has been revealed to be the world’s largest “man-made terror base.” He portrayed current Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar as stuck in a bunker somewhere in Gaza, cut off from other Hamas commanders. Netanyahu has also hinted at the depth of Israel’s strikes saying “Hamas is finding out that we’re getting to places it didn’t think we’d reach. And the campaign is still underway.”

In Gaza, the IDF said troops had identified a terrorist cell hiding inside a mosque. On Monday, IDF reservists from the Negev Brigade of the 551st Brigade, and soldiers from the Yahalom combat engineers located tunnels inside a residence in a civilian neighborhood in the Beit Hanoun area. They then destroyed the tunnels after an IDF Oketz unit, which uses dogs, examined the area.

To get a sense of how Israel is performing out ground operations using the latest technology the Long War Journal visited an area near Southern Command on Tuesday to meet members of an IDF strike cell that aids the 36th division in carrying out strikes by coordinating with various units on the ground, sea and air. IDF troops also “located a number of Hamas terrorists who barricaded themselves in a building adjacent to the al-Quds Hospital,” the IDF said in a number of updates via social media on Tuesday.

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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