Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90
Hamas Al-Qassam Brigades terrorists in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, June 14, 2021.

According to estimates by US intelligence agencies cited by The Wall Street Journal, Israel’s declared goal of eliminating every last Hamas terrorist has not reached even the halfway mark after 107 days of warfare (Hamas Toll Thus Far Falls Short of Israel’s War Aims, US Says). As of Sunday, Israeli forces have killed between 20% to 30% of Hamas’s fighters. On day 100 of the war, the IDF reported that 9,000 Hamas and Hezbollah fighters had been eliminated, 50 of them from the rank of company commander and higher.

The same US intelligence agencies estimate that Hamas has sufficient munitions to continue fighting for months and that in some areas, such as Rafah, where an estimated two million Gazans are living today, Hamas is still the only government and police force.


Despite sustaining thousands of casualties, as indicated by US and Israeli assessments, Hamas’s primary objective in this conflict, as stated by current and former Israeli military officials, is simply to endure. Their strategy seems to be centered around the idea that in a conflict, it’s not always necessary to win; sometimes, just avoiding defeat is enough.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is adjusting its expectations for the war, moving away from seeking Hamas’s complete destruction as a security threat. Instead, they are encouraging Israel to shift its focus to more targeted operations aimed at dismantling Hamas’s leadership.

The US estimates that Hamas had between 25,000 and 30,000 fighters before the October 7, 2023 war, as well as thousands of police officers. Israel also estimates Hamas had some 30,000 Hamas terrorists before the war.

Israeli authorities estimate that approximately 16,000 Hamas fighters have sustained injuries, with around half of them unlikely to resume active duty, as reported by a senior Israeli military official. On the US side, estimates are that between 10,500 and 11,700 terrorists have been wounded, and there is a possibility that many of them may eventually return to the battlefield.

Hamas appears to defy the established military thinking on several counts. According to US military doctrine, a conventional force experiencing a loss of 25%-30% of its fighters would be deemed combat-ineffective. However, Hamas, operating as an irregular force engaged in a defensive war within a densely populated urban setting and utilizing an extensive network of tunnels under Gaza, has demonstrated its ability to continue fighting.

The WSJ cited retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who previously commanded US military operations in the Middle East, as noting that the ongoing losses are intensifying pressure on Hamas’s network, leading to individuals having to take on multiple roles. “One person might now have to do two or three jobs,” he said.

In a demonstration of the terror group’s resilience, Hamas is striving to reestablish control in the northern Gaza Strip, where extensive damage has been inflicted by Israeli airstrikes and ground forces. Last week, Hamas launched a barrage of rockets into Israel from an area in central Gaza that had recently been occupied by Israeli forces. This has raised concerns among some in Israel that Hamas may seek to regain control in areas not under Israeli forces’ jurisdiction.

Michael Milshtein, a former head of Palestinian affairs for Israeli military intelligence, told the WSJ it’s only a matter of time before Hamas retake areas where Israel will not have boots on the ground.


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