Israeli Military Warns ‘A Lot’ of Gaza Lives at Risk Unless Hamas Surrenders, Releases Hostages

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
October 19, 2023Israel–Hamas War

The Israeli military has warned that, unless the Hamas terror group releases the hostages it took during a recent bloody assault on Israel and surrenders, it is putting “a lot” of lives at risk in Gaza as Israeli forces are determined to “completely dismantle” Hamas and its military capabilities.

In an interview with NTD, Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said that Israel aspires for a “short, swift, and decisive war” against Hamas that will involve the least amount of casualties among both Israeli forces and civilians in Gaza.

Unfortunately, he and other Israeli military officials have said they expect a long and drawn-out conflict.

“The faster and swifter we can do it, the better,” he said, adding that if Hamas “understood the severity of the situation, returned the hostages without conditions, and went out and surrendered unconditionally, that would save a lot of lives in Gaza.”

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the state of affairs with Hamas, he said, “which forces us to enhance our operations until—and this is our aim—we completely dismantle Hamas and its military capabilities.”

NTD Photo
Israeli troops patrol at an undisclosed location along the border with the Gaza Strip on Oct. 19, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

The message that Israel’s war against Hamas and its affiliates will be a long and difficult grind was driven home in a recent message from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of the General Staff, LTG Herzi Halevi, in a letter to soldiers.

“Every single one of you has a role in the challenges we face ahead,” he wrote in the message. “The war will be difficult and long and the IDF will prevail.”

More recently, the commanding officer of the IDF Southern Command, MG Yaron Finkelman, said that Israeli military maneuvers are now “going to take the war into their territory,” presumably referring to Gaza and other areas controlled by Hamas or its affiliates.

“We’re going to defeat them in their own territory,” Mr. Finkelman said. “It’s going to be long. It’s going to be intense.”

Other Israeli military leaders said Thursday that a ground offensive in Gaza is coming.

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Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets soldiers on the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip in Sderot, Israel, on Oct. 19, 2023. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Clashes Intensify

Hostilities between Israel and Hamas (and other armed groups operating in and around Gaza like Islamic Jihad) have increased significantly since Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists invaded Israeli communities, murdering civilians and taking hostages.

According to the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the armed wings of several Palestinian groups—including Saraya al Quds and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades—have sharply increased the number of rocket attacks launched from Gaza toward Israel in recent days.

“The rate of clashes between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces in the West Bank expanded by 470 percent,” ISW analysts said in an Oct. 18 operational note, adding that Iranian-backed groups carried out separate attacks on U.S. forces stationed at the al Harir airbase and Ain al Asad airbase in Iraq.

While some armed Palestinian groups fired indiscriminately into Israel from the Gaza Strip, others targeted 21 IDF military positions with mortars and rockets in southern Israel, per ISW.

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Rockets fired by Hamas terrorists into Israel from Gaza City on Oct. 7, 2023. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

Meanwhile, targeted Israeli airstrikes into the Gaza Strip continued to kill senior Hamas officials, with the IDF reporting it had killed the Hamas naval forces commander as well as the commander of the Hamas anti-tank unit, who ISW said was a “prominent weapons dealer and coordinator for attacks” against Israel.

Asked what the IDF was doing to minimize the number of civilian casualties as it steps up its bombing campaign in Gaza, Mr. Cornicus said every effort is being made to do so but that it’s made difficult by the use of human shields by Hamas operatives.

“For civilians suffering in Gaza, they are not our enemy,” Mr. Conricus said, while expressing regret for any civilians caught in the crossfire of the Israel–Hamas war.

“We try not to strike civilian infrastructure, we focus our military activities only on the military assets of Hamas. But unfortunately […] our enemies are embedded within the civilian infrastructure, […] they use civilian houses and buildings in schools and mosques and hospitals for their fighting.”

Hospital Blast in Focus

Mr. Cornicus addressed the recent controversy over a massive blast that hit the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City on Oct. 17, insisting that it was not an Israeli air strike but a rocket misfired by Islamic Jihad, a terror group that often works with Hamas to target Israel.

“The rocket was fired from Gaza towards Israeli civilians but then it misfired just after being launched. Unfortunately, it landed in the parking lot of that hospital in Gaza and caused those casualties,” he said.

Hamas and others blamed an Israeli air strike for the blast and the “horrific massacre,” while Palestinian officials have said the explosion killed as many as 500 people.

Wounded Palestinians sit in al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, central Gaza Strip, after arriving from al-Ahli hospital following an explosion there, on Oct. 17, 2023. (Abed Khaled/AP)

Mr. Cornicus issued a note of caution about the veracity of casualty counts announced by Hamas-affiliated organizations.

However, he added that it cannot be ruled out that “the very abnormal, large amount of casualties from the hospital explosion could be related to something that Hamas was storing underneath or nearby the hospital.”

“Otherwise, it’s very difficult to understand how so many people were killed by the remains of one rocket,” he said, while insisting that Israeli forces fight according to internationally accepted laws of armed conflict, which call for steps to minimize civilian casualties.

“Our enemy is Hamas, not the civilians, and we will defeat Hamas while trying as much as possible to minimize casualties,” he said.

Death Toll Rises

It’s unclear how many Gaza civilians have been killed thus far since Israel stepped up bombardment of Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip since Hamas operatives on Oct. 7 mounted a surprise incursion into Israeli communities and killed some 1,400 Israelis.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says that as of Oct. 19, at least 3,785 Palestinians have been killed and 2,493 wounded in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra told a press conference on Thursday that, of the total death toll, 1,524 were children and 1,000 were women. He added that 44 health workers had been killed, while four hospitals and 14 basic healthcare services had ceased functioning.

“There are no medicine stocks in any of the hospitals in Gaza,” Mr. Al-Qudra added, calling on the international community to speed up the delivery of aid to Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said no aid would flow to Gaza from Israel as long as Hamas continues to hold Israeli hostages, of which there are an estimated 200.

However, Israel is allowing humanitarian aid to flow to Gaza through Egypt.

President Joe Biden, who said he was involved in the negotiations, cautioned that the aid would end “if Hamas confiscates it or doesn’t let it get through.”

From The Epoch Times

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