Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif

Sunday, January 7 marked three months after the horrific invasion and massacre of Israelis in southern Israel by Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization and its allies.

IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari delivered a lengthy statement late Saturday night in which he explained the fighting in Gaza, the challenges of the war, and why it is taking as long as it has to destroy Hamas and rescue the hostages abducted during the Oct. 7 attack.


Following is the text of Hagari’s address.

“One of the war’s goals is to dismantle Hamas. This means dismantling the military capabilities Hamas built over the years and used to carry out the barbaric massacre on October 7th. To understand the military operation in Gaza Strip, one must understand the enemy Hamas and how it operates.

Understanding the Enemy
Hamas is structured in battalions. Hamas battalions use a complex underground system with infrastructure to manufacture weapons, war rooms, command and control centers, and the capability to launch rockets from above and below ground.

The terrorists move between different areas in the Gaza Strip using this infrastructure, allowing them to do so covertly.

The enemy’s strongholds are located under and near sensitive civilian sites like the Indonesian Hospital, which you see here in the film and next to it a school, used by Hamas as a human shield.

Hamas terrorists move unarmed, dressed in civilian clothes, planting explosives for IDF forces in the streets and at the entrance to tunnel shafts.

This is Gaza
What does this fight look like in the field? This is the Gaza Strip. It covers 365 square kilometers, and its population is over two million people.

This is the northern Gaza Strip, where we began our ground operation and have been fighting for the past three months.

In the northern Gaza Strip, Hamas had two military brigades with 12 battalions in total, consisting of about 14,000 terrorists total.

From Jabalya, for example, hundreds of terrorists committed the murderous massacre in the communities of Sderot, Nir Am, Erez, Kfar Aza, and Netiv HaAsara on October 7th. They slaughtered civilians and abducted others to Jabalya.

Jabalya is a densely populated area with about 25,000 buildings. One in every ten such buildings is multi-story.

How IDF Works to Keep Civilians Safe
Before entering such a dense area for combat, we evacuate the population, aiming to prevent harm and protect the civilians while allowing military action, as it deprives Hamas of protection under the guise of the population and allows us to distinguish between the population and Hamas terrorists and target them.

This protects IDF forces and the uninvolved civilian population.

After evacuating most of the residents, before IDF ground forces enter, the Israeli Air Force strikes threats to IDF forces.

We struck underground infrastructure, terrorists, lookout posts, and explosive rigged houses. Just in Jabaliya alone, we struck about 670 air targets before the entry of the ground forces. We struck precisely, intelligence-based, and according to international law. All this allowed optimal entry conditions for IDF forces.

First Objective in Dismantling Hamas
Dismantling Hamas consists of five objectives – the first and most important, eliminating Hamas commanders, thus impacting its command and control.

In these strikes, in the Jabalya area we eliminated the battalion commander, the deputy brigade commanders, and 11 company commanders leading the terrorists in the field.

The senior terrorist we eliminated in the area is Ahmad Randor; you can see him here in the picture, sitting with his command echelon in his underground bunker, 40 meters underground. We precisely struck and eliminated all the people with him.

Eliminating the commanders made it difficult for the terrorists to fight organized and led to many of them surrendering.

Second Objective: Ground Combat
The second objective is ground combat against the terrorists. IDF forces encircled and cleared the Jabalya area, meaning the combination of Armored forces, about 200 tanks, Combat Engineering forces, Infantry forces, and special forces encircled the Jabaliya area from several directions simultaneously.

All this takes place with intelligence and air support from dozens of aircraft that strike any threat quickly.

IDF ground forces are directing the fighter jets that have struck about 300 targets. This collaboration between the Israeli Air Force and the ground forces has not been seen in any war to date. Even at this moment, Israeli Air Force jets continue to accompany ground forces and strike any threat to IDF forces.

IDF soldiers on the ground are fighting bravely. They eliminate terrorist cells firing from within houses, tunnel openings, and alleyways; IDF forces fight close-quarter battles with terrorists.

Footage from the Go-Pro of a soldier wounded by a terrorist shows the soldier rising, charging, and eliminating a terrorist. There are dozens of such operations in the field.

Fighting terror is complex and costly. Sadly, it also costs the lives of IDF forces.

We announced this evening the death of the late LTC Roee Yohay Yosef Mordechay, may his memory be a blessing. He was killed in an encounter with terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip. Roee was an outstanding commander and soldier. Before his death, it was agreed that he would be appointed Commanding Officer of the 50th Battalion of the Nahal Brigade. We embrace his family and all bereaved families and will continue to accompany them.

We learn from every event and improve in order to reduce the number of casualties.

In every event where there are casualties in the field, IDF forces provide life-saving medical treatment and conduct rescue operations under fire and life-threatening conditions, with the help of medical teams and the 669 Airborne Rescue and Evacuation Unit of the Israeli Air Force. We have rescued hundreds of injured, saving their lives.

Third Objective: Collecting Intelligence
The third objective is to gather intelligence in the field. We have located computers, maps, communication devices, and found hard drives from which we downloaded about 70 million intelligence files, which are now being studied and analyzed by the Intelligence Directorate (J2) and the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency, also known as ISA).

We interrogated many terrorists in the field, in collaboration with the Shin Bet, working shoulder to shoulder, a practice that yields remarkable achievements in the war. In Jabalya, many terrorists have surrendered, whom we are questioning.

As a result of this, we have gathered intelligence about senior Hamas operatives, including documentation, as you can see in this picture, of Muhammad Deif, which we retrieved from a hard drive.

Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif

This drive also contained information about senior Hamas operatives outside of Gaza. All of this provides us with vital intelligence for the continuation of the war.

Fourth Objective: Find and Destroy Rockets, Ordnance, Production Sites
The fourth objective is to locate and destroy rockets, weapons, and the sites where they are manufactured. We located and destroyed about 40,000 weapons across the Gaza Strip, some of which were found in schools, hospitals, mosques, and under the beds of children.

Fifth Objective: Destroy ‘Lower Gaza’
The fifth objective for dismantling Hamas is to destroy its underground infrastructure (also known among the local population as “lower Gaza”).

In Jabalya alone, we found eight kilometers (five miles) of underground tunnels and more than 40 tunnel shafts. Inside the tunnels, we located Hamas’ northern headquarters near there, we retrieved the bodies of five hostages and brought them back to be buried in Israel.

To combat the underground infrastructure, we deployed classified technological means, followed by special forces trained for the mission, and ultimately, as you can see, we also eliminated terrorists and destroyed the infrastructure inside the tunnels.

We also operated in bases that Hamas had established in hospitals. These are bases Hamas thought we would avoid operating in, but they were mistaken.

In two hospitals in the area, Kamal Adwan as you see in the picture, and the Indonesian Hospital, underground infrastructure, weapons, and military equipment were established.

In both, we carried out special operations to dismantle the terror infrastructure — without harming doctors, medical teams, or patients.

IDF forces were prepared with intelligence information in advance regarding locations where hostages were suspected to be and therefore did not strike them. We learned many lessons from the tragic event in which three hostages were killed, and we are training IDF forces for such encounters. The return of the hostages is a main goal of the war and a supreme national mission.

Why It’s Taking So Long
At the end of a stubborn and determined battle, we dismantled Hamas’ military framework in Jabalya. Hamas no longer operates in an organized manner in this area. We have deprived it of its main terror capabilities in the region.

It is important for me to say to the public – there are still terrorists in Jabalya. However, they now operate without a framework and without commanders.

We have encountered and will continue to encounter sporadic rocket fire from this area. We have struck it and will continue to strike, deepening our achievements in these areas. This takes time. There are no shortcuts in fighting terror.

Now think about what I showed you, about what we did in Jabalya, and multiply it by eight areas that cover the entire northern part of the Gaza Strip, each with different terrain and challenges.

This is why the task required three months.

Hamas Military Framework Dismantled in Northern Gaza
We have completed the dismantling of Hamas’ military framework in the northern Gaza Strip and will continue to deepen the achievement, strengthening the barrier and the defense components along the security fence.

Now, we are focusing on dismantling Hamas in the central and southern Gaza Strip. We will do this differently, thoroughly, based on the lessons we have learned from the fighting so far.

The central camps area is dense and contains a lot of terrorists, and in Khan Younis, there is an underground city of sprawling tunnels.

We are applying the lessons we learned and continue to develop more creative ways to fight in the area, to eliminate terrorists, to destroy terror infrastructure and weapons above and below ground. This will take time.

The fighting will continue throughout 2024, as we work according to a plan to achieve the war’s objectives: to dismantle Hamas in the center and south and to continue with every intelligence, operational effort, and military pressure to return the hostages.

Meanwhile, we are building defended areas to safely return our residents home.

Israel’s Northern Front
I also want to refer to the last day in the north. Hezbollah, in its role, or the role it has taken upon itself as the protector of Hamas, fired today towards IDF bases in the north, with no casualties to IDF forces.

We eliminated the terrorist cells that carried out the shooting and struck a series of targets including significant military compounds of the organization. We continue to be prepared with very high readiness in the north, in defense and offense.

On October 8th, Hezbollah — Iran’s proxy in Lebanon — joined the war started by Hamas, when Hezbollah began attacking Israel from our border in the north.

Israel has been responding and will continue to respond — forcefully — to Hezbollah’s aggression.

Hezbollah is dragging Lebanon into an unnecessary war — for the sake of Hamas. Hezbollah is seeking an escalation despite the unwanted destruction it could bring to the people of Lebanon — in addition to the unnecessary suffering it’s already bringing to the people of southern Lebanon — and for what? for the sake of Hamas.

Hezbollah is risking the future of the region — all for the sake of Hamas.

But here’s something that Hezbollah and all of Iran’s proxies should never forget: When it comes to existential threats — Israel regards every day as though it’s October 6th, so that the Hamas massacre of October 7th never happens again. On any one of our borders.

We have a duty to defend our people, if not through diplomatic means, then through the force of arms. The diplomatic window may be short, but it’s still open.

To those dragging the region to an unnecessary escalation, our message is clear: The people of Israel, the people of Gaza, the people of Lebanon, and indeed the entire region — deserve a future of peace, progress and prosperity — and not the death and destruction that Hamas and Hezbollah seek.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.