Hamas military command in north Gaza 'dismantled', Israeli army says

Focus of war to shift to central and south Gaza, spokesman says as war enters fourth month

Israeli soldiers watch from a vantage point overlooking Gaza city amid fighting with Hamas. AFP
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Israel's military has “dismantled” Hamas's military leadership in northern Gaza, a spokesman said on Saturday after three months of air strikes, shelling and a ground offensive.

Military spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces had completed dismantling the group's military framework in northern Gaza and killed about 8,000 militants in the area.

“We are now focused on dismantling Hamas in the centre of and south of the strip,” he said.

“We will do this differently, thoroughly, based on the lessons we have learned from the fighting so far.”

Israel has intensified strikes in central and southern Gaza since last month, with high civilian casualties reported from strikes in residential areas.

“Fighting will continue during 2024. We are operating according to a plan to achieve the war's goals, to dismantle Hamas in the north and south,” Admiral Hagari said.

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported numerous deaths and injuries from Israeli air strikes on Sunday in the southern city of Khan Younis, where Israeli troops are engaged in heavy fighting.

The war, triggered by Hamas raids in southern Israel on October 7 that killed about 1,100 people, has caused more than 22,700 deaths in Gaza so far, according to local health officials.

The US and EU's top foreign policy officials were in the region over the weekend as part of a fresh push to prevent the war from developing into a wider regional conflict and to improve the flow of aid into Gaza, where most of the population has been displaced and is struggling with shortages food, water, medical care and shelter.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Jordan on Sunday as part of a Middle East tour that will take him to Israel and the occupied West Bank next week.

“One of the real concerns is the border between Israel and Lebanon, and we want to do everything possible to make sure we see no escalation,” he said during a stop in Greece on Saturday.

Mr Blinken was due to hold talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II before heading to Qatar and the UAE later in the day.

Hezbollah leader: 'War with us would be very costly'

Hezbollah leader: 'War with us would be very costly'

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was in Beirut, where he met a senior figure in Hezbollah's political wing on Saturday as part of efforts to avoid Lebanon being drawn into the war, an EU source told AFP.

He also held talks with the head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, Mohammad Raad, Lebanese media reported.

“It is imperative to avoid regional escalation in the Middle East. It is absolutely necessary to avoid Lebanon being dragged into a regional conflict,” Mr Borrell said.

He said he would go to Saudi Arabia next to discuss “a joint EU-Arab initiative” for peace.

Hezbollah has been trading near-daily fire with Israeli forces since early October and on Saturday fired dozens of rockets at an Israeli military base in response to the killing of a senior Hamas figure in a suspected Israeli strike in Beirut on Tuesday.

Hezbollah said it had targeted the Israeli military's Meron air control base with 62 missiles in its “initial response” to the killing of Saleh Al Aruri, deputy leader of Hamas's political wing, in Beirut.

The Israeli army reported “approximately 40 launches from Lebanon” and said it struck Hezbollah “military sites” in response.

Updated: January 07, 2024, 7:08 AM