The IDF is preparing to occupy the southern Gaza Strip

Achieving the goals of Operation "Iron Swords" requires the IDF to occupy the south of the Gaza Strip, according to the estimate, most of the abductees are held in the south and that is also where the military leadership of Hamas is hiding. The IDF will also be forced to occupy the "Philadelphia Axis" in the Rafah area to prevent terrorists from escaping to Egypt through the tunnels.

In recent days, the IDF began distributing leaflets to the residents of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, in which the residents were required to evacuate their homes.

The proclamations stated that the actions of Hamas and other terrorist organizations oblige the IDF to operate in the Khan Yunis area and that it does not wish to harm the residents and therefore they should go to known shelters, the proclamations warned against providing shelter to terrorists and that any such house would be a target.

The Israeli Air Force bombed several Hamas targets in the southern Gaza Strip in recent days, but it seems that the IDF is about to expand ground maneuvers and while the IDF forces are engaged in deepening control of Gaza City and dealing with tunnels, additional forces will continue to the southern Gaza Strip in order to dismantle the extensive Hamas military infrastructure in this area consisting of three divisions of the organization’s military wing.

The continuation of the battle towards the south is intended to focus on achieving the two main goals of Operation “Iron Swords”, namely, the elimination of the military leadership of Hamas which will lead to the collapse of its rule and the return of the abductees.


Assessment: The top military wing of Hamas is hiding in the south

The IDF is planning to increase the military pressure on the military leadership of Hamas, according to the estimates it escaped already in the early stages of the battle to the southern Gaza region, it correctly estimated that the IDF will try to reach first and foremost the headquarters of the military wing under the Shifa Hospital and other hiding places in Gaza City .

Three members of the military leadership of Hamas are natives of the Khan Yunis refugee camp and they have an extensive military infrastructure there which they trust a lot and which also consists of their families, the family loyalty and intimate knowledge of the area should help them in the war against the IDF forces.

The three are Muhammad Def, Yahya Sinwar and his brother Muhammad Sinwar.

Yahya Sinwar is the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, he wears two hats, the political hat and the military hat of the head of the military arm in the Gaza Strip.

This is the man who planned the attack on Israel on October 7 together with Muhammad Def, the commander-in-chief of the military branch, the two of them who hold in their hands the fate of the Israeli hostages and the keys to any prisoner exchange deal.

The Hamas leadership abroad has almost no influence on the management of the battle and the release of the abductees, it acts as a mediator and conveys messages it receives from Qatar to the heads of the military wing in the Gaza Strip.

Muhammad Def is considered by Hamas to be a “military genius” who well planned the attack on Israel on October 7 just as he planned the rocket attack on Jerusalem in May 2021 that led to the opening of Operation “Guardian of the Walls”.

In recent years, he developed an offensive strategy against Israel under the radar of Israeli intelligence, which held the concept that Hamas is deterred and that it is possible to buy calm in the Gaza Strip through humanitarian concessions and the monthly financial grant from Qatar.

This time he went one step further and implemented his strategy of moving the war into enemy territory.

Muhammad Sinwar, is the younger brother of Yahya Sinwar who saw to it that he was included in the list of terrorists released from Israeli prison in the Shalit deal in 2011, he is the commander of the Khan Yunis Brigade and is responsible for his brother’s security, in recent years he has gone underground for fear of being assassinated by Israel.

The fourth senior of the Hamas military leadership is Marwan Issa, born in the Al-Boureij refugee camp in the center of the Gaza Strip.

Marwan Issa is the right-hand man of Muhammad Def and holds the title of Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Gaza Izz a-Din Al-Kasam Brigades and was also an active partner in planning the attack on the Israeli settlements surrounding Gaza.

Putting pressure on the military leadership of Hamas to advance the release of the abductees requires the IDF to move large forces south.

From the beginning of the battle, the Israeli security establishment estimated that most of the Israeli abductees were being held in tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip.

It is possible that the military leadership of Hamas is keeping some of the abductees in a hiding place next to it in order to use them as human shields.

Senior military officials say that it will not be possible to achieve the goals set by the political echelon for the IDF without the occupation of the entire Gaza Strip, therefore the occupation of the southern Gaza Strip is an important part of the battle.

Another important thing is the occupation of the border strip called the “Philadelphia Axis” in the Rafah area, which extends for a distance of 5 km on the border of the Gaza Strip with Egypt.

In this border strip there are tunnels active by Hamas for smuggling weapons from the Sinai Peninsula into the Gaza Strip and they can also be used for the escape of the heads of the military wing of Hamas in the Gaza Strip to Egyptian territory and finding refuge among the operatives of the ISIS branch in the North Sinai.

Yoni Ben Menachem Senior Middle East Analyst

About Yoni Ben Menachem

Yoni Ben Menachem is a Middle East senior analyst ,a journalist and
the former CEO of the Israel Broadcasting Authority(IBA). He has
decades of experience in written and video journalism. Ben
Menachem’s path in the media world began as a producer for
Japanese television in the Middle East. After that, he held many key
positions in the media The Israeli: CEO of the Israel Broadcasting
Authority, director of “Kol Israel” Radio, reporter on West Bank and
Gaza Strip affairs, political reporter and commentator, commentator
on Middle East affairs and editor-in-chief and presenter of the
program “Middle East Magazine”. 

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