Gaza City encircled by IDF ground forces


What’s happened: On the 31st day of the war, IDF troops in the Gaza Strip are now surrounding Gaza City.

  • IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Hagari said, “IDF troops… have reached as far as the beach in the southern part of Gaza City and they have encircled Gaza City. Essentially, today there is north Gaza and south Gaza.”
  • The IDF also confirmed it has struck 450 military targets belonging to Hamas in the last 24 hours.
  • Hagari also presented IDF video evidence of Hamas using an underground shaft in the grounds of Sheikh Hamad hospital. In a second clip, gunmen are seen shooting from the hospital.
  • As the IDF increases the pressure on Hamas, Hagari revealed the extensive efforts Israel has made to warn Gazan civilians to leave the combat zone via safe passage to the south.
    • The IDF dropped over 1.5 million leaflets over Gaza, over time colour coded to emphasise the immediacy of military ground operations.
    • They made over 19,500 phone calls warning of approaching battle.
    • Over 4.3 million text messages and almost 6 million voice recordings.
  • Relating to the hostages, Hagari emphasised they remain Israel’s top national priority. He said, “we, in the IDF and in the Shin Bet and in all the security agencies, haven’t forgotten. We are making efforts around the clock. We collect every piece of information, we seize every operational opportunity.”
  • Last night Hamas were still able to launch several rockets towards Tel Aviv and the centre of Israel.
  • In the north, Hezbollah fired two heavy waves of rocket fire towards the northern town of Kiryat Shmona. In the first wave one Israeli civilian was killed. In the second wave a house took a direct hit, but the man inside made it into his safe room and was unhurt.
  • Hezbollah claims the strikes on Kirya Shmona were in response to Israel striking a civilian vehicle in southern Lebanon. The IDF was targeting a terror cell, but are checking the details of the strike.
  • US Secretary of State Blinken continued his shuttle diplomacy and was in Baghdad yesterday, where he met with the Iraqi prime minister. Later the same day Prime Minster al-Sudani travelled to Tehran and met Iranian President Raisi, presumably to pass on a message from the US.
  • In parallel, the US has continued to augment its military deployment and last night sent a nuclear submarine to the region.

Context: It has taken just over a week for the IDF to surround Gaza City, which includes Hamas military strongholds and presumably the most senior commanders.

  • The operation is going to plan, though commanders stress they will need time to complete their objectives.
  • They now need to enter slowly and cautiously and target Hamas’s command and operational structure, much of which is underground.
  • The Sheikh Hamad hospital was built by Qatar. The release of the incriminating footage serves to prepare the international community for the next stage of fighting. It exposes how Hamas uses its own citizens as a human shield and why it will be necessary for Israeli forces to target the area. Thirdly, it is meant to highlight for Qatar how they have been manipulated by Hamas.
  • Hagari also presented IDF recordings of an intercepted phone call between Hamas officials discussing the appropriation of fuel reserves designated for another hospital.
  • Israel maintains that there will be no humanitarian ceasefire until progress is made regarding the hostages. This includes no supply of fuel, which would be usurped by Hamas and used to further their war effort.
  • However, it is possible they will agree to a pause, but will hope to make it conditional on progress for the release of hostages.
  • Sieges are not prohibited under international humanitarian law, though their conduct is subject to the obligation to protect the civilian population. The UK’s “Joint Service Manual of the Law of Armed conflict”, for example, notes that: “Siege is a legitimate method of warfare as long as it is directed against enemy armed forces,” while also noting that “the normal rules on precautions in attack apply.”
  • According to COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activity of the Territories), international organisations continue to bring food to the Strip through the Rafah crossing. So far, the entry of 201 trucks of food has been coordinated.
    • Today, 75 trucks carrying international humanitarian aid were inspected and transferred to Gaza via the Rafah crossing. The aid is intended for the population in the southern part of the Strip.
    • So far, 526 trucks carrying humanitarian aid have been inspected at Nitzana crossing, and transferred to Gaza via the Rafah crossing.
    • On Sunday during the declared humanitarian corridor published by the IDF, Hamas fired towards IDF forces securing the corridor. This was a deliberate act done in order to try and prevent the people from moving south. Hamas continues to endanger the population and tries to prevent their movement.
    • Today, the corridor was opened at 10 am enabling hundreds of residents to cross and move south.

Looking ahead: Entering into Gaza City could be the most dangerous phase of the mission. With narrow allies, Israeli armour will not be able to enter, so troops may need to enter on foot.

  • Israel is encouraging Egypt to facilitate Palestinian patients to cross over and receive treatment in a field hospital on the Egyptian side of the border.
  • IDF Chief of Staff Lt Gen Halevi visited the Northern Command yesterday, and related to concerns saying, “we have heard a great deal about the feelings of the residents in the north. We are ready at any moment to switch to an offensive in the north.”