Every 10 meters, Israeli flags. The video is filmed by a soldier, from the top of his tank. On the devastated coastal road that runs along the Mediterranean in the north of the Gaza Strip, the message is clear: the area, emptied of its inhabitants, is now under Israeli control. Three weeks after the start of the ground campaign, the Al-Chifa hospital, target and symbol of this war in the heart of Gaza city, also fell into the hands of the army on Sunday evening, while the last patients, including 31 premature babies were being evacuated south, in coordination with the World Health Organization.
The Israeli army assures that Hamas has made the basement of this hospital its command center and operates there through a vast network of tunnels. The first images clumsily revealed by army spokespersons suggest that dozens of weapons were stored in a few rooms. “It’s already too much in a hospital, but for the moment, we are far from the announced HQ,” estimates Pierre Servent, expert in military strategy. “This hospital is the largest in the Gaza Strip. The searches are underway, they have been slowed down by the evacuation and will take time because the terrorists have probably left, leaving traps, but I can assure you that we will discover things,” says Michael Milshtein, former chief of the Palestinian Affairs Department within Israeli intelligence.
“Hamas is far from being destroyed”
If Benjamin Netanyahu promised to eradicate Hamas, it is difficult, after forty-five days of war, to draw up an objective assessment of the damage generated on the operational structures of Hamas, the Israeli army’s accounts being limited to mentioning the death of “thousands of terrorists”. “We have dismantled a large part of the 13 battalions of the Al-Qassam brigades in northern Gaza,” assures Major-General Tamir Hayman, director general of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) involved in strategic decisions. of the war. According to him, around 15,000 men are in total divided into 7 brigades, divided into 24 local battalions, all autonomous in terms of weapons. “Two commanders of these brigades were killed, but make no mistake, Hamas is far from being wiped out, especially since their stock of weapons and rockets is still up to par,” adds Michael Milshtein, the one of the most informed Israeli experts on the subject.
All eyes are therefore turning towards the south. “Hamas headquarters is in Khan Younes, not at Al-Chifa hospital,” Ehud Olmert, Israeli prime minister from 2006 to 2009, said in an interview Friday on Euronews. A “conceivable” idea, according to Michael Milshtein: “It is in this neighborhood that Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, the architects of the October 7 massacres, were born, and there is a good chance that they hid there. »
“You can kill people, but not an idea”
In a battle plan unfolded to journalists during a weekend briefing, Major General Tamir Hayman says the current campaign in the northern Gaza Strip should be concluded by January. “A third campaign awaits us in the South: ground operations, focused on the dismantling of long-range firing equipment and the elimination of Hamas cadres,” explains the senior officer.
While nearly 1.7 million people have taken refuge in the south of Wadi Gaza, as requested by the Israeli army, a military operation in this overcrowded urban environment where a serious humanitarian and health crisis threatens, raises many questions. “We will have to be generous on the humanitarian aspect and very precise on the targets targeted in the coming months,” anticipates Michael Milshtein, aware that the situation of the Gazans is an argument that weighs in the balance of tolerance of the international community : “This is all going to be much longer and more complex than the previous steps, and it doesn’t solve the question of the ‘day after’: you can kill people, but not an idea. »