Photo credit: Shin Bet
Hostages: In the course of the ground operation inside Gaza, the IDF and the Shin Bet Security Service were able to successfully rescue a 19-year-old female IDF soldier.
- Private Ori Megidish was rescued on Sunday night, with the announcement only made yesterday afternoon after she had been debriefed and returned to her family.
- Private Megidish was captured by Hamas when her base at Nahal OZ was overrun on the morning of October 7.
- According to the IDF, she was held by Hamas on her own, without any other hostages.
- Earlier yesterday afternoon, Hamas released a video recording of three Israeli women it is holding hostage. The hostages pleaded for Israeli leaders to agree to a ceasefire and a prisoner exchange.
- Israeli media overwhelmingly chose to show a still image, but not broadcast the recording as it is perceived as part of the Hamas’s manipulative psychological warfare.
- Nevertheless, it was at least the first proof that these three captives were alive.
- Israeli analysts have interpreted the released footage as an indication that Hamas is feeling the pressure following IDF advances on the ground.
- Also yesterday, the IDF confirmed that DNA tests on part of skull belonged to Shani Louk, a 23-year-old German-Israeli whose captured lifeless body was identified on the back of a Hamas truck entering Gaza on October 7.
Ground incursion: Israel has continued its advances deeper inside northern Gaza.
- Palestinian sources released footage claiming Israeli tanks had reached the Salah al-Din road, about three kilometres deep into the Strip and one of two main north-south routes; the second being the coastal road.
- The IDF confirmed it “continues with its coordinated ground, air, and sea operations in the Gaza Strip… numerous Hamas terrorists have been killed; hundreds of additional military targets were struck.”
- “Over the last day, combined IDF combat forces struck approximately 300 targets, including anti-tank missile and rocket launch posts below shafts, as well as military compounds inside underground tunnels.”
- The IDF also revealed it killed five prominent Hamas operatives:
- Jamil Baba, commander of Hamas’s naval forces in its Central Brigade.
- Muhammad Safadi, commander of the anti-tank missile unit in the Tuffah Battalion.
- Muwaman Hijazi, a prominent operative in Hamas’s anti-tank missile unit.
- Muhammad Awdallah, a senior operative in Hamas’s production department.
- Nasim Abu Ajina, commander of Hamas’s Bet Lahia battalion (who was involved in the attack on Netiv Ha’asara).
- In parallel, Hamas continues to fire rockets towards Israel, mostly short-range, but also towards the centre and Jerusalem. Overall, close to 8,000 rockets have been fired, with over 550 falling short inside Gaza.
In the north: Hezbollah continues to attack along the Lebanese border area.
- According to the IDF, attacks included:
- Mortar shells toward Rosh Hanikra.
- Two rocket landed in open areas near Moshav Elkosh
- Three anti-tank missiles were fired towards Biranit. No injuries were reported.
- In all these instances, the IDF returned fire to the source and later attacked additional Hezbollah targets.
Context: The successful rescue mission was greeted as the first piece of positive news in Israel since the initial Hamas attack.
- It restored some belief that Israel can act with creativity and daring, with the hope for more results like this in the future.
- For that reason, the details of the rescue mission have not been publicised.
- This was the first rescue after Hamas released two pairs of female hostages.
- The latest assessment is that another 240 hostages remain inside Gaza, 30 of whom are babies and children under 16 years old.
- The successful release of the soldier through a military operation is a blow to Hamas narrative that only a prisoner exchange will bring about their release.
- In parallel, it was revealed that head of the Mossad Barnea visited Qatar over the weekend to explore the possibility of a deal to release more of the captives, possibly in return for expanded humanitarian aid or even fuel. However, it appears his mission was unsuccessful.
- Families of the kidnapped continue to demand the Red Cross and doctors be given access to the hostages.
- In a further sign of the widening regional dimensions of this conflict, it was reported this morning that IDF aerial defence forces detected and shot down a drone that tried to infiltrate Israeli airspace in the Eilat area. This appears to be the third time that Houthi factions in Yemen, supported by Iran, have launched rockets or UAVs towards Israel.
Looking ahead: Israel is expected to continue its ground incursion towards Gaza City, to target Hamas military infrastructure and increase the pressure on Hamas to release more hostages.
- For now Israel has the backing of international partners to destroy Hamas’s military capabilities. In order to extend international legitimacy Israel will need to ensure that medicine, food and water continues to enter in coordination with Egypt and the US.