IDF chief says withdrawal of troops from Gaza doesn’t mean war is close to end

Israel’s Herzi Halevi claims that Israel is prepared for any attack by Iran. Defense Minister says the pullout will prepare the army for an incursion into Rafah.

IDF Chief Staff Lt.Gen. Herzi Halevi stated Sunday that despite the withdrawal from Gaza of all the army’s ground forces, the war continues against Hamas and is not over.

He said the IDF could resume its fight if it temporarily halted in the event of an agreement to release hostages. He added that bringing hostages home was more important than any other goal.

Halevi told the press that “we are fighting this conflict differently. It is different from previous wars.” Halevi’s statement marked six months since Hamas launched its attack on October 7, and the beginning of the war.

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“The war in Gaza is far from over. Hamas’ senior officials remain in hiding. We will find them sooner or later. We are progressing, killing more terrorists and leaders and destroying more terror infrastructures. This includes last night.

On Sunday, the IDF withdrew its last ground force from Gaza. This left only one brigade in place to secure the corridor that separates the Palestinian enclave.

At the height, the IDF had several divisions in the Strip. These divisions were made up of approximately 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers. Only a few thousand soldiers were in Gaza as of Sunday.

“We will not allow Hamas brigades to remain active in any part the Strip. We will decide when to act on our plans. We allow humanitarian aid to enter the Strip at the same time we are launching the offensive. Hamas wants to create a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza to pressure for an end to this war”, Halevi stated.

He also said that “Hamas is attempting to take control of humanitarian aid and prevent its distribution in order to regain control over the Gaza Strip.” This is not acceptable.

Halevi added, “We continue to demolish Hamas’s government and military capabilities to bring stability to the area.”

In a similar statement, Defense Minister Yoav Galant stated that the purpose of the troop withdrawal from Gaza was to prepare for an expected offensive in Gaza’s southernmost town of Rafah.

Gallant said that Hamas had “stopped operating as a military organisation throughout the Gaza Strip” due to its military victories, but contradicted himself by saying that the IDF was still preparing to deal the remaining Hamas battalions at Rafah.

Later, a spokesperson for Gallant clarified that the Defense Minister was referring not to all of Gaza but only the Khan Younis region and other parts of Gaza where the military has operated.

The defense minister stated that “the achievements of the 98th Division are extremely impressive. They target terrorists and destroy enemy targets such as warehouses, weapons or underground sites, headquarters, communications rooms, etc.”

“The forces are now preparing their missions for the future.” Gallant stated that they had seen examples of these missions in action in Shifa [Hospital] and for their future mission to the Rafah region.

He added, “We will achieve a situation in which Hamas no longer controls the Gaza Strip or functions as a military structure that poses a threat to the citizens of Israel.”

Israeli officials claim that 18 out of the 24 original Hamas battalions have been dismantled in Gaza, which means they no longer function as a military unit. However, smaller cells are still present.

Four Hamas Battalions are virtually unharmed in Rafah in southern Gaza, and two more in the central area of the Strip.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, has said that he approves the plans for the military to conduct an operation in Rafah. However, he hasn’t given them the green light.

Rafah’s planned offensive has caused great concern in the international community. This includes the US and Egypt. More than one million Palestinians have been displaced to southern Gaza City from other parts of the Strip. Israel said that it was planning to evacuate civilians and protect them from Rafah, as part of their offensive plans.

IDF aims to return hostages as soon as possible

Halevi stated on Sunday that “we all would have loved to have had him back alive.” Halevi was referring to the weekend operation to recover Elad’s body. We failed to achieve that.

“We will continue our operations in all ways.” “We will continue to work, both in intelligence and operations, to bring back all hostages as soon as possible,” said he. “As Chief of Staff, I feel personally a responsibility to bring them back, as do other commanders and soldiers of the IDF.”

Halevi stated that hostage negotiations should be done “responsibly and carefully, and their details should be left to the right rooms.”

He continued, “The IDF has the strength to allow the State of Israel pay the price for the return of their sons and daughter.” “We have moral responsibility to them, and the IDF knows how to pay even a high price for their return and also how to fight with strength.”

“When we started the war, we said it would take a long time to accomplish the goals. “We have achieved a lot in Gaza but we haven’t yet fully achieved our goals — the safe return of hostages, the safe return of residents from the north and south who were displaced by the war, and the dismantling Hamas throughout the Gaza Strip,” said he.

“This reality is complex, and there are no easy solutions.” We are determined and responsible in our war efforts. “We must not be delusional,” said he.

“As we have said, certain goals will take time to achieve, and we won’t stop until they are achieved.” “The return of hostages is urgent and important, and the timer for this goal is different than the timers of other goals,” Halevi said.

Israel is ‘in a war on multiple fronts’

Halevi, speaking about Iran’s threats to respond to Israel’s alleged assassination of a top IRGC official in Syria, said that the IDF was fully prepared for all scenarios.

He said that Israel was facing “a war on multiple fronts”. “There’s no need to panic but complacency is not an option.” Halevi said that we must always be prepared and aware of what is happening.

“IDF soldiers are ready and operating on all fronts, including the South, the North, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and other distant areas. He warned that the IDF is also well-versed in dealing with Iran both offensively and defensively.

We are prepared, we have good defence systems and we know how we can act against Iran anywhere. We cooperate with the US, strategic partners and other countries in the region.