As Israeli ‘Lions’ Pounce on Hamas in Gaza, the Roar Echoes All the Way to Beirut

Fight in Gaza enters a new phase, as IDF closes in on Hamas and its terrorists grow frantic for an escape.

IDF via Wikimedia Commons
Members of Israel's Kfir, or Lion, Brigade in training. IDF via Wikimedia Commons

More than two months into Israel’s war to extirpate Hamas from Gaza, explosions above ground are still visible on television screens around the world. But even as the IDF takes out Hamas targets up and down the Gaza Strip, much of the action is taking place underground.

That is where, more than ever before in the long war against Hamas, Israel is now on the prowl with the aim of destroying them. The IDF’s Kfir Infantry Brigade is now operating in the Gaza Strip, the first time it has done so since 2005. Kfir is the Hebrew word for “lion.”

The lion is the largest infantry brigade in the IDF. In a statement this week the Israel Defense Forces said that during the brigade’s operations, it discovered approximately 30 Hamas tunnel shafts and directed around 100 artillery strikes against the terror group’s sites.

The brigade is composed of five battalions that are stationed in Judea and Samaria. The combat team now operating in Gaza consists of the Haruv reconnaissance unit and 94th Duchifat Battalion, as well as reservist tank forces from the Kiryati Brigade, combat engineers, and artillery forces. 

The commander of Israel’s 261st Brigade’s 8717th Alon Battalion, currently operating in northern Gaza, told a Times of Israel reporter that Hamas operatives were fighting like “cowards” and with “no mercy for their own families, for their children.”

“They don’t really try to face us, but to sting here and there. Their method of operating is fleeing in civilian clothes, leaving behind their uniform, their guns, anti-tank missiles, explosives, and they just run,” the commander stated, adding “After we leave the area, they return and attack the next forces.”

These efforts inevitably come at a human cost for Israel. This week the IDF confirmed that 82 soldiers have been killed in the Gaza offensive, and by the start of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah on Thursday that figure had likely inched upward. 

On Thursday, the son of Israeli government minister Gadi Eisenkot, Gal Meir Eisenkot, was killed while fighting in northern Gaza. Gadi Eisenkot served as chief of the general staff of the IDF between February 2015 and January 2019.

The resumption of heavy combat in recent days has largely shifted to the search for and killing of Hamas leaders, as stated by Prime Minister Netanyhahu. Much of the fighting is taking place around various refugee camps, but in particular the Khan Yunis camp, used as a Hamas command center and the place where head Hamas terrorist Yahya Sinwar is said to be hiding. The elusive Mohammed Deif, head of the al-Qassam brigades, is also thought to be at Khan Yunis.

According to an IDF statement, five Hamas commanders based in the northern Gaza Strip were killed in airstrikes this week. The IDF and Shin Bet security service released a photo of the men pictured inside a terror tunnel at an unknown time prior to the strikes. 

The tough work of rooting out Hamas from its underground lairs can be expected to continue for several weeks. The possibility that the IDF could flood the tunnels, a task of some complexity, demonstrates just how crucial it is for Israel to crush the enemy at the source, so to speak. 

On a broader operational level, the use of the Kfir Brigade is also signaling to Israel’s regional enemies that should they in any way aid or abet Hamas, they will themselves become targets. 

From the Lebanese capital this week Hamas announced the establishment of the al-Aqsa Flood Vanguards unit in order to “emphasize the role of the Palestinian Arabs, wherever they may be, in resisting the occupation by all legitimate means available.” 

The announcement further called on “the youth and men of our people to join the vanguard resistance fighters and take part in shaping the future and liberating Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque.”

That prompted Lebanese newspaper L’Orient Le Jour to wonder if Lebanon is “heading toward Hamasland.” It said that the renewed Hamas call to arms could be seen as a repeat of the 1969 Cairo Agreement which, though defunct since 1987, for a period handed control of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon over to the PLO.

If a flailing Hamas is looking for allies north of Israel, though, it won’t necessarily find them. Even though it is allied with Hezbollah, Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement party rejected the announcement. Its leader, Gebran Bassil, stated that “we categorically reject the creation of this unit by Hamas and believe that any armed action originating from Lebanese territory is an attack on national sovereignty.”

Lebanon is already a wreck economically and with presidential elections coming up in 2024, the country hardly needs Hamas encroaching on its sovereignty — Hezbollah is already doing that, essentially acting as a rogue state within a state with its grip on southern Lebanon.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has warned the Iran-backed terrorist group that it risks turning Beirut into the next Gaza should it open an “all-out war” against Israel.

The New York Sun

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