Photo Credit: Ariel Hermoni (IMoD)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant with the fighters of the 98th Division in Gaza, December 28, 2023.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Tuesday entered the Gaza Strip together with Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Amir Bar’am to conduct a situation assessment with the fighters of the 99th Division led by Brigadier General Barak Hiram.

General Hiram was recently the subject of harsh criticism over a NY Times quote regarding his actions in Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7, when he allegedly told his tank commander following negotiations with Hamas captors of Israeli hostages, “The negotiations are over, break inside, even at the cost of civilian casualties.” Only two of the 14 hostages survived the ordeal (The Day Hamas Came).


The defense minister on Tuesday stressed the importance of maintaining the “humanitarian axis” for Gaza’s civilians, to deepen the IDF’s achievement in the northern Gaza Strip, and to focus military efforts on the Khan Younis area.

Gallant spoke with the reservists in the 646th Brigade and expressed his appreciation for their fighting. “I have a great appreciation for what you’re doing, for being able to operate for three months while your women and children are at home, and you continue fighting, he said, “Three months ago there were murders of children and babies and the rape of women, something no country can allow, certainly not the State of Israel.”

“There’s a two-fold need to win the campaign,” Gallant told the fighters. “First, to exact a price and make sure that those who live near the Gaza Strip can go back. But the more important thing is, if you don’t end an event like this, involving about 1500 victims and hostages, with a clear decision, you can’t live in the Middle East, because tomorrow someone else will come. That’s why we are determined to achieve the goal.”

He also said: “You are on the corridor, which means that on both your sides there will soon be operations of different kinds. In the north, we destroyed 12 Hamas battalions. It doesn’t mean all the terrorists are dead, but the framework in which someone can pick up binoculars, report back, mortar shells start coming down, and the battalion commander must respond with a fighting force – that does not exist any longer. Terrorists remain, a few thousand of the 15 or 18 thousand that used to be in the sector. A large part was eliminated and another part fled to the south.”

“This means what we’ll be doing from this point on in this area will be tactical. In terms of operations, we will conduct fire attacks, enter enclaves, run special operations, and if needed, we will hold on to this area for as long as we deem necessary. But the goal is to exhaust the enemy, kill them, and achieve a reality in which we control the area,” Gallant explained.

“Reality in the southern Gaza Strip is different,” he continued. “In Khan Younis and its environs, we are carrying out a phase-crossing effort, unrelated to the process. We focus on what’s above the tunnels where senior Hamas officials are hiding, at great depths, so we are already reaching them by all means, and this is already happening.”

Regarding Khan Younis, Gallant said: “We are isolating the Khan Younis area and the massive effort will continue. The manner of operating changes as a function of what we have achieved and the assessment of the situation. We are not giving up, we are not stopping the onslaught now, as I’m hearing from many erroneous sources.”

“The results will be clear,” Gallant vowed. “We end this campaign when Hamas no longer functions as a governing body and certainly not as a military framework that sends out troops and continues to strengthen them. It will take the necessary time, and, unfortunately, there are other threats, the first and foremost of which is what’s happening in the north, and on that issue, we’ll begin a process of preparation while we are constantly with an eye on the binoculars and a finger on the trigger.”


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