IDF could complete high-intensity phase of Gaza war by May

Without a ceasefire deal, the army will likely dismantle four Rafah Hamas battalions by end of April, according to army sources


TOPSHOT - Israeli women soldiers, from the mixed gender infantry unit of the Bardelas battalion, take part in a training exercise along the Israel-Egypt border near Har Harif, east of the Southern Israeli city of Mitzpe Ramon on January 18, 2024. Israel's ground offensive in the Palestinian territory, which came in response to unprecedented attacks by Hamas militants on October 7, has shifted military attitudes towards women. (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP) (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

(JNS) The Israel Defense Forces will likely begin maneuvering in Rafah, southern Gaza—the last Hamas stronghold—towards the end of February, and could complete the high-intensity phase of its war against Hamas by early May, a senior former Israeli defense official says.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said during a call organized on Monday by the Jerusalem Press Club that by the start of March, the IDF will likely complete its operations in Khan Yunis and begin moving units into Rafah, assuming no hostage release deal is reached with Hamas, which would alter this timeline.

Amidror served as national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and as chairman of the National Security Council between 2011 and 2013. He is also a former head of Research Department in the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate

“There are four battalions of Hamas” in Rafah, Amidror said. “All of them will be dismantled by the IDF. This will take the whole of March and maybe to the end of April.

"In the meantime, we have to be sure that part of the population which is concentrated in Rafah will move slowly but surely to designated areas which would be kind of a safe haven for this population,” he added.

Many displaced Gazan civilians headed to Rafah “because they had the hope that they will be allowed to cross the border into Egypt,” Amidror said, adding, “The Egyptians do not want any Palestinians in Egypt. That was my, by the way, my assessment from the beginning—that they would not allow any Palestinian to enter Egypt.”

According to this rough assessment, by the start of May, the IDF will complete its high-intensity stage of operations against Hamas in southern Gaza, gain operational control of the entire Strip over and underground, and shift into the targeted raids phase, as it has already done in northern Gaza.

This next phase, according to Amidror, will entail “specific raids of battalions or brigades into specific areas based on intelligence that we will have.” He estimated that it would take another six months to a year to “clean out the Gaza Strip totally” in this next phase.

“And then it will be 'the day after' in which someone will have to take responsibility for Gaza,” he said.

Amidror added that the IDF is gleaning a great deal of intelligence from “papers” and other data sources confiscated from Hamas sites in Gaza, including from Hamas headquarters, and the interrogation of Hamas terrorists.

“Many of them are now instead of fighting and being killed, they are surrendering,” he said.

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