Photo by TPS on 11 February, 2024

Israeli Defense Minister: Deepening Gaza Operations Makes Hostage Deal More Likely

Public By Pesach Benson • 11 February, 2024

Jerusalem, 11 February, 2024 (TPS) -- As international attention starts to turn towards Gaza’s southernmost town of Rafah, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Sunday that raising the pressure on Hamas would help bring about a negotiated prisoner release. Meanwhile, Israeli officials called for the resignation of the director of a UN agency embattled by new revelations of being penetrated by Hamas.

“The more we deepen our operations, the closer we get to a realistic deal in order to return the hostages,” Gallant said. He was speaking at a display of items seized from Hamas by the Intelligence Directorate’s intelligence collection and technical spoils unit.

Hamas threatened that an invasion of Rafah would end negotiations for another ceasefire.

Israeli officials called on Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency to resign amid new revelations on Saturday that Hamas had dug an underground compound directly underneath the UN agency’s Gaza headquarters in Gaza City. The compound contained Hamas’s computer servers and was connected to the UNRWA’s electrical system. Inside the UNRWA facility, soldiers found suicide bomber belts, grenades, rifles, explosives, bullets and Hamas flags.

Israeli officials rejected Lazzarini’s claims that the agency was unaware of the tunnel.

“The exposure of UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters’ deep involvement with Hamas, including its use for terror activities and as an access point to terror tunnels, requires immediate action,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Philippe Lazzarini’s claim of unawareness is not only absurd but also an affront to common sense. His prompt resignation is imperative,” Katz added.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Givati Brigade intensified its operations “to degrade Hamas’ West Khan Yunis Battalion” and strengthen its operational control over Khan Yunis, the Israel Defense Forces said on Sunday.

Khan Yunis is the second largest city in the Gaza Strip.

Givati forces have been striking from the air and ground, in dense areas embedded with large numbers of Hamas forces. The troops have eliminated approximately 100 terrorists in close-quarters combat, as well as with tank strikes, sniper ambushes, and aerial strikes, the IDF said.

During Givati operations, the forces identified three terrorists emerging from a residence and loading a suspicious package onto a motorcycle. The forces directed an aircraft that eliminated them. Subsequently, secondary explosions occurred, indicating the presence of weapons in their possession.

Furthermore, a terrorist cell fired an anti-tank missile towards an engineering vehicle of the Givati soldiers. With intelligence guidance, the soldiers located the four terrorists who fired the missile and a sniper eliminated them.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the remaining 136 hostages, Israel recently declared 31 of them dead.