New Delhi The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) plan to expand their ground campaign into southern Gaza, virtually clearing underground Hamas military infrastructure in the north of the enclave. An Israeli military officer gave this information on Tuesday.
The official said the IDF could launch ground attacks. The south could attack at any time after the war resumed.
“Tunnels are being discovered,” Colonel Avichai Zafarani, defense attaché at the Israeli embassy in Delhi, told reporters about Hamas’ military infrastructure on the ground in Gaza.
According to Zafarani, Hamas’s two main operations in the coastal region were in or under Al-Shifa Hospital, the Gaza Strip’s largest medical facility, in the north, and in Khan Yunis, a town in the south.
He said caches of weapons and ammunition, including anti-tank explosive devices and mines, were found in the hospital area, with tunnels beneath them that had been used by Hamas and a tunnel shaft near an amusement park and a mosque. A rocket launcher was found nearby.
“The government gave the IDF two objectives – one is to eliminate Hamas and the other is to release the hostages,” Jafrani said.
The Palestinian militant group, which attacked Israel on October 7, has been hit hard by Israeli airstrikes, ground attacks and a naval blockade.
Jafrani said “Hamas is under pressure” and wants to negotiate on extending the ceasefire.
At the time of writing, 51 Israeli hostages with dual citizenship and 20 foreign hostages, mostly Thai farm workers in Israel, had been released by Hamas as part of a swap deal with 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
An estimated 168 hostages are still held in captivity, whether from Hamas or another Palestinian terrorist organization, which entered Israel on October 7.
When asked where Gaza civilians would seek refuge when the IDF conducts raids in the south, Jafrani said a related plan would be announced soon.
Thousands of people have fled their homes in northern Gaza and sought shelter in camps, schools and other temporary housing in the south since the war began. They may have to change the area again soon to save their lives. However, it is not yet clear where humanitarian shelters will be set up after Israel begins its ground offensive in southern Gaza.
According to UN estimates, 1.7 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced.
The war is unlikely to stop in the coming weeks unless there is a diplomatic breakthrough. 1,200 people have been killed in rocket and ground attacks by Hamas on Israel.
Nearly 14,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli retaliatory attacks, Middle East media reports citing Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said.
Israeli officials have said that the IDF has killed a large number of Hamas fighters, but so far no names have been made public except for a few.