As defense chiefs confront Netanyahu over Gaza’s ‘day after,’ three IDF divisions back in Gaza

Three IDF divisions were back fighting Hamas in Gaza on Sunday, with the 98th division in Jabalya in northern Gaza commanded by Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus, the 99th division in Zeitoun in north-central Gaza commanded by Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram, and the 162nd division in Rafah in southern Gaza commanded by Brig. Gen. Itzik Cohen.

While the high point of the invasion in October-November had five divisions in Gaza, by April 7, there was only one division, the 162nd, still there, and even that division was no longer at full strength.

This means that the IDF is about halfway back to its full strength point in Gaza earlier in the war and signals the failure of the first seven months of the war to prevent Hamas from quickly returning to power with the mere use of small-scale “clean-up” operations.

The IDF said it had attacked over 150 targets on Saturday-Sunday, including using a wide range of air and artillery power, a heavy increase in the use of more destructive Israeli war machines after a period of time in which foot soldiers had maintained order with only light limited air strike assistance.  

IDF tells residents of Jabalya to evacuate, signaling new op.

Another signal of the increased intensity of the current fighting in Gaza was the IDF’s announcement that 400,000 Palestinian civilians had evacuated Rafah to date, with more on the way, and around 100,000-150,000 Palestinian civilians expected to be evacuated from Jabalya.

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, shelter at a tent camp, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza Strip May 11, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/DOAA ROUQA)

The IDF said that it had intelligence that Hamas was regrouping in Jabalya but did not share additional specifics about how many terrorists had regrouped.

An IDF source did suggest that Hamas had only started to reestablish command-and-control centers, such that the IDF was hoping to intervene before the organization became re-entrenched.

Over the weekend, IDF forces in the three various areas had already killed a few dozen Hamas terrorists, and another dozen or more were killed Saturday-Sunday.

Palestinian reports indicated that IDF forces were already moving through Jabalya and that over 60 Palestinians had been killed and over 110 injured, bringing the war total, according to Hamas’s Health Ministry to over 35,000 dead and over 78,000 wounded.

The defense establishment has said 15,000 of these are killed Hamas terrorists and another 15,000 wounded operatives, plus a couple thousand killed by the organization’s own rocket misfires.

Near the Rafah Crossing, the 162nd division found and destroyed a variety of rocket launchers primed to be activated remotely to fire on Israel.

IDF forces also destroyed a variety of tunnels, weapons storage areas, and other terror assets of Hamas.

Criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also mounted from the IDF and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for avoiding deciding on who will replace Hamas, which in turn they say has given the terror group the space to regroup and forced the IDF back into Gaza in larger numbers.

Netanyahu has argued that deciding on a new political manager for Gaza must wait until the war is over, but the IDF and Gallant have countered that the last few months while the military had operational control of nearly all of Gaza was a missed opportunity since the war had been on a low-boil.

Despite the IDF’s coming back in Gaza with heavy forces, following the alerts that sounded in the Kerem Shalom area on Sunday, the military confirmed that Hamas had managed two launches which had crossed into Israeli territory from Rafah.

Still, the IDF said both rockets were successfully intercepted and that no injuries or damage were reported.

There were also rocket sires for Sderot and Reim.

Later on Sunday, sirens sounded in Ashkelon after a Hamas rocket actually hit Ashkelon, injuring three persons, over the weekend.

Also, over the weekend, Hamas managed to fire rockets on Beersheba for the first time in months.