(JNS) Hamas is attempting to re-establish its governing capabilities in areas of the Gaza Strip from which Israeli forces have withdrawn, deploying police officers and paying partial salaries to civil servants.
Four Gaza City residents told the Associated Press that the terrorist group has dispatched both uniformed and plain-clothes officers near the police headquarters and other government offices, as well as the Shifa Hospital, which Israel exposed in November of last year as a Hamas command centre used to hold hostages.
Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip on October 27 2023 following weeks of air strikes in the aftermath of the October 7 atrocities.
One of Jerusalem's stated war goals is the destruction of Hamas's military and governing capacities in Gaza.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant announced in mid-January the end of heavy combat in the northern Gaza Strip. On the same day the IDF’s largest regular-service armoured division exited Gaza for rest and training, leaving three other divisions fighting Hamas.
While the Israeli military has continued intensive operations in the southern Gaza centered around the Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis, the reduction in boots on the ground elsewhere has created an opening for Hamas to attempt to reassert some sort of control.
As a result, there have been Israeli airstrikes on makeshift offices in Gaza City where some civil servants have been seen.
"In recent days, Israeli forces renewed the attacks in the western and northwestern parts of Gaza City, including in the areas where salaries were distributed," the sources told AP.
The IDF is also expected to increase troop activity in northern Gaza in the coming weeks to try to quell the Hamas resurgence.
Israel’s Army Radio reported that the military is planning to carry out extensive raids due to increased activity by the terror group in northern Gaza.
According to Israeli military estimates, there are about 2,000 Hamas terrorists in the north (the rest were killed or escaped), who are completely disconnected from the leadership in the south.
"The return of the police marks an attempt to restore order in the devastated city after the Israeli forces withdrew from northern Gaza last month," a Hamas official told AP.
Gallant said last week that 10,000 Hamas fighters have been killed and another 10,000 wounded nearly four months into the war, adding that the Khan Yunis Brigade had been dismantled.
Many Hamas fighters have also been captured by Israeli forces on and after October 7. Before the attack, Hamas was estimated to have a fighting force in Gaza of some 30,000 to 40,000 terrorists.
"We are achieving our missions in Khan Yunis, and we will also reach Rafah and eliminate terror elements that threaten us," said Gallant.
Israeli forces continued to press their offensive in Khan Yunis, the IDF said on Sunday morning.
Khan Yunis, Gaza’s second-largest city, is regarded as a personal stronghold of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.
Over the past day, members of the IDF's Paratroopers Brigade raided a multi-story building used as a command centre by the head of Hamas’s Khan Yunis Brigade. Soldiers found Kalashnikovs, ammunition, military equipment and technological gear, according to the IDF.
The soldiers also eliminated several terrorists in close-quarters combat.
In northern Gaza, the 401st Brigade eliminated terrorists and uncovered Kalashnikov rifles, pistols, military equipment, ammunition and grenades.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force struck numerous Hamas targets across the Strip, including rocket launch sites.
The IDF's death toll since the start of Gaza ground operations on October 27 has risen to 225 with the announcement on Sunday morning that Sgt. First Class (res.) Shimon Yehoshua Asulin, a 24-year-old resident of Beit Shemesh, was killed in action in southern Gaza on Saturday.
A total of 562 military personnel have been killed on all fronts since the start of the war on October 7, 2023.