Israeli DM: Hamas terrorists have ‘lost fighting spirit’

IDF Northern Command head Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin met with civilian security teams in Israel’s north ahead of a possible further escalation there.

By Akiva Van Koningsveld | | Topics: Gaza, Hamas
Israeli troops during operational activities in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israeli troops during operational activities in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Hundreds of Hamas terrorists who “lost their fighting spirit” have surrendered to Israel Defense Forces soldiers in the Gaza Strip in recent days, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant revealed on Sunday, amid ongoing preparations for an escalation with Iran-backed Hezbollah in the north.

“The deepening of military activities in Khan Yunis continues to bear fruit,” Gallant said during a visit to an IDF base in Beersheba, in reference to the southern Gaza Hamas bastion. “Two hundred terrorists have surrendered at Nasser Hospital; dozens have surrendered at the Amal Hospital.”

“This shows that they have lost their fighting spirit. Terrorists armed with RPGs, weapons, and guns… did not fight back. They understood that their options were to surrender or die,” according to Gallant.

“Hamas is left with forces in the central area of Gaza and the Rafah brigade. The only thing required for their total collapse as a military system is a decision by the IDF. There is no one here to come to their aid—no Iranians and no international assistance,” Gallant told senior officials in the military’s Southern Command.

“We will dismantle Hamas’s six remaining battalions—we have no right to stop as long as there are 134 hostages left in Gaza,” the defense minister added.

At least 32 of the hostages remaining in Hamas captivity are confirmed dead. Hamas terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and wounded thousands more during the terror group’s Oct. 7 attacks.

Israeli troops during operational activities in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Last week, the IDF disclosed “credible evidence” that Hamas held at least some of the hostages it took at Nasser Hospital and that the bodies of dead captives may be located inside the Khan Yunis facility.

In a video message on Thursday, IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari revealed that special forces were conducting a “precise and limited operation” inside the hospital, with the military later stating that several suspects were arrested.

The military had contacted the hospital’s director, calling for an immediate halt to terrorist activity inside the facility and the immediate evacuation of Hamas operatives from the premises, the IDF noted.

In January, Hamas fired a rocket at Israeli soldiers from within the hospital. During the ongoing war, Israel has uncovered extensive use of medical facilities by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists.

Weapons seized by Israel Defense Forces soldiers from a hospital in Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.

While Israel fights Hamas terrorists to the south, Hezbollah has joined the fighting by firing dozens of missiles and rockets at the Jewish state from Lebanon every day since the war began on Oct. 7.

Last week, Hezbollah launched rockets at Safed, killing one soldier and wounding eight others. The slain soldier was identified as IDF Staff Sgt. Omer Sarah Benjo, 20, from Moshav Ge’a, near Ashkelon.

Over the weekend, IDF Northern Command head Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin met with civilian security teams in the north ahead of a possible further escalation involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon and Syria.

The so-called standby squads are made up of locals, usually former military, who train together and serve as first-response teams, holding the fort until regular troops arrive. At least two kibbutzim in the western Negev were saved on Oct. 7 because of such squads.

“If we end up needing to go on the attack in the north, it will be with awesome power,” vowed Gordin. “The defense of your towns by local defense groups, both those that have been evacuated and those that have not been evacuated, is a part of our broader defense concept.”

IDF Northern Command head Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin meets civilian security squads in Israel’s north, Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: IDF.

The Israeli military has stepped up its attacks against Hezbollah by “one level out of 10” in response to last week’s deadly attack, Gallant said on Thursday, warning that jets above Beirut have been armed with “heavier bombs for more distant targets.”

“We do not want to enter into a war, but rather are interested in reaching an agreement that will allow the safe return of residents of the north,” Gallant said at the time.

Over four months after Hezbollah joined the war in support of Hamas, the International Committee of the Red Cross, tasked with monitoring compliance with international humanitarian law, on Sunday issued its first statement on “concerns for civilians in northern Israel.”

Without naming Hezbollah, the ICRC called on “all parties involved to prioritize the protection of civilians and adhere to international humanitarian law,” noting that “tens of thousands of people have had to leave their homes, and are not yet able to safely return.”

“For more than four months, civilians in northern Israel have lived with increasing levels of violence and uncertainty. We are deeply concerned about the escalating violence in this area, and the further impact this will have on civilians,” added the statement.

Attacks from the Land of the Cedars have killed six civilians and 10 IDF soldiers since the start of the war. Some 80,000 Israelis have been displaced from their homes up to 6 miles from the border with Lebanon.