Israeli forces entered Khan Younis — the largest city in southern Gaza — on December 5 after several days of intensified shelling of Hamas targets. The head of the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman, said that IDF troops are engaged in the “most intense” battles since the war began as battles raged in southern Gaza.
“There is no Israeli victory in the Gaza Strip without all areas of the territory being addressed, and that requires an Israeli military presence on the ground. After Khan Younis, Israel will have to look to Rafah, further south on the Egyptian border. But Rafah — and, by extension, Egypt — will already be feeling the impact now, as some Palestinians flee Khan Younis in their direction. This could be the most important test of Cairo’s willingness to play a useful role by opening the border to refugees and thus shortening this war. The sooner that Egypt is pressured to take responsibility for humanitarian relief on its side of the border, the sooner Israel can finish the job of removing Hamas.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO
“Hamas is estimated to have half of its fighting force, half of its arsenal, and senior leaders hiding among the two million Gazans in the south. The IDF will continue to take measures to prevent unnecessary harm to civilians, and Hamas will continue to leverage Palestinian civilians as human shields.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network
IDF Encounters Heaviest Fighting of the War
The possible timeline for Israeli operations in the south was not immediately clear. While smaller than Gaza City in the north, which took Israeli forces around four weeks to secure, the Khan Younis theater is complicated by the presence of Palestinians who fled there from the north. It is also believed to have significant Hamas infrastructure that the terrorist group would seek to defend fiercely.
Hamas Continues Attacks
On December 4, the IDF announced three fallen soldiers, bringing the IDF death toll since Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza to 75. Meanwhile, terrorists in Gaza continued to fire rockets, targeting Israeli communities across the country, including Tel Aviv and central Israel, home to more than four million Israelis. Since the beginning of the conflict, terrorists have launched more than 11,500 rockets towards Israel, and Hamas continues to hold 138 hostages in Gaza, including women, children, and U.S. citizens.