Israel is targeting Hamas’ political leaders in Gaza as well as military ones as it seeks to crush the Palestinian group that launched a brutal attack on its civilians last weekend, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said.
(Bloomberg) — Israel is targeting Hamas’ political leaders in Gaza as well as military ones as it seeks to crush the Palestinian group that launched a brutal attack on its civilians last weekend, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said.
Hamas’s elite Nukhba forces led the Saturday assault and the military’s focus is to hit that group’s command centers in Gaza, Hecht told reporters on Thursday.
He said a widely anticipated ground invasion has not yet been decided upon by the new emergency unity government announced last night, in which an opposition leader, Benny Gantz, joins Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition for the duration of the war.
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The military is nonetheless preparing for such a move, he said, should it be ordered. Tens of thousands of troops are gathered at a new base near the Gaza border. For five days, Israeli jet fighters have been hitting Hamas targets in the densely packed strip, with the death toll in the area reaching at least 1,200.
Israel has also cut off electricity, fuel and any food typically supplied by the country.
Hecht said the Nukhba forces are “personally handpicked by the Hamas leadership to do the most violent work — raids, stakeouts, infiltration and abduction. You can’t disconnect them from the leadership.”
He said interrogation of captured Nukhba fighters in Israel was providing details to intelligence operatives.
“We will get every single one of them,” he added, of those remaining in Gaza. Hamas military leaders Mustafa Shahin and Mohammad Abu Shamla, the latter a maritime commander, have already been killed, he said.
Hamas fighters are still trying to get into Israel and some remained at large from the Saturday infiltration. On Wednesday, he said, five were killed and two captured in the south.
A major concern has been to secure the border fence after the massive incursion by many hundreds into Israel. Hecht said about 100 tanks were being used as part of the effort, and that anyone who approached the fence would be shot.
Hamas continues to fire rockets and missiles, having sent 5000 so far, he added.
He insisted that Israel continued to warn civilians in areas before it bombed them.
“We are not just doing carpet bombing,” he said. “There is no target that we are going for that is not based on intelligence. And yet this is bigger than we have ever seen before.”
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