Israel is shifting its military campaign to the south of the Gaza Strip as reports of a possible hostage deal and a ceasefire circulate. The IDF forces have succeeded in controlling the northern Gaza Strip to some extent, but have not eliminated Hamas’ military capabilities or captured many of its leaders. As the focus turns to the south, officials believe they will face the most difficult phase of the war so far.
Many Hamas terrorists fled to the south when IDF soldiers arrived, with leaders hiding in densely populated towns and tunnels that were less damaged from the air than Gaza City. There are concerns that Hamas fighters in the south will be a more determined enemy, as they have nowhere left to run. According to IDF estimates, Hamas leaders are using the abductees as leverage to delay the advance of IDF forces.
Reports indicate that the IDF wants to delay its fighting in the south until it can prepare and plan to protect the civilians who have sought refuge from the north. However, Israel has made it clear that they will proceed with a significant campaign in the south to achieve the government’s goal of eliminating Hamas. Currently, about 2 million Gazans are seeking refuge in the south, with limited food, clean water, electricity, and sanitation.
The plan for the south will emulate the actions taken in the north, with airstrikes and a slow advance of ground troops. However, the terrain, including the densely populated urban areas and tunnels, will make it more difficult for the IDF to navigate. The IDF seeks to block the border with Egypt and prevent Hamas from smuggling more weapons into the south, as well as preventing the organization’s leaders from fleeing Gaza.
Local evacuations from specific towns and neighborhoods in the south are expected, creating even more pressure on Egypt to accept more Palestinian refugees. However, the Palestinian civilians seek protection from the UN and other humanitarian agencies against the upcoming offensive in the south. Despite this, Israel is determined to undertake the calculated, complex campaign and fight to eliminate Hamas.