Chief of Staff Halevi
Chief of Staff HaleviIDF Spokesperson

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi stated that the IDF is launching the third stage of its ground campaign against the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza with the encirclement of Khan Yunis,

"60 days after the war began, our forces are now encircling the Khan Yunis area in the southern Gaza Strip," Halevi said. "Simultaneously, we continue to secure our accomplishments in the northern Gaza Strip.

"Those who thought that the IDF would not know how to renew the fighting after the pause were mistaken, and Hamas is already feeling this. Many Hamas operatives, including senior commanders, have been eliminated in recent days," he said.

The Chief of Staff announced: "We have moved to the third phase of the ground operations. We have secured many Hamas strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip, and now we are operating against its strongholds in the south."

"We operate professionally; evacuating the population from combat zones; striking Hamas from above and below ground with combined strikes from the air, sea, and land.

"We are deploying our ground forces into combat with powerful and precise support of fire and intelligence with a high level of accuracy. Our forces engage with many terrorists, target them effectively, in an impressive manner.

"With our forces are ISA representatives, bringing the capabilities of the organization. Our forces are joined by representatives from across the IDF - this partnership really builds strength on the battlefield.

Halevi blamed Hamas for the death toll in Gaza: "Many ask about the destruction in Gaza. Hamas is the address. Sinwar is the address. Our forces find in nearly every building and house weapons and in many houses terrorists, and engage them in combat. We understand that part of their method is the weapons left in the houses. A terrorist arrives in civilian clothing and conducts combat from there. Striking them requires significant use of fire, both to target the enemy but also to, of course, protect our forces. Therefore the forces operate powerfully, while making big efforts to mitigate as much as possible harm to civilians."

"The military pressure we are applying and have applied in recent weeks is severely damaging Hamas, advancing the achievement of all the war’s objectives, with the top priority of returning all the hostages home.

"Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet commanders in combat in the northern Gaza Strip. I hear them, I talk to them, they say very clearly - we are ready and willing to do everything to return the hostages, to do everything to strike Hamas and dismantle this organization. And I see their wisdom, they also know how to turn these two missions into complementary missions and not competing things, and we are truly doing everything to return the hostages.

Addressing the ongoing attacks from Lebanon, Halevi said: "Hezbollah chose to open fire at the end of the operational pause. We identified this in advance and prepared for this. We are resolutely acting against anyone preparing, or attempting to harm the citizens of Israel, IDF soldiers or those that pose a threat to our territory. We are exacting a high price from Hezbollah, one that it is trying to hide, which they probably understand why."

"We are focused on Gaza, but together with this we are continuing operational activities aimed at achieving a better security reality in the north of Israel," he said.

Turning to the security situation in Judea and Samaria, he said "In the Central Command, in Judea and Samaria, we are increasing the fight against terrorism, so far we must say with great success. In the last two months, over 1,200 Hamas operatives were apprehended in Judea and Samaria, many terrorists who carried out attacks, some very serious attacks in the past, some that were planning to carry out future attacks. They were arrested or killed, and we are very determined to continue this effort."

He also addressed the death of Yval Castelman, the civilian who stopped the terrorist attack in which three people were murdered by Hamas terrorists in Jerusalem last week but was then shot and killed by security forces who mistook him for an attacker.

"A few days ago, we experienced a tragic event in Jerusalem, in which the late Yuval Doron Castelman was killed. It is important to me to say: we praise the heroism of a civilian who ran bravely into the fire, to stop the killing of civilians. This is truly heroic. At the same time, we emphasize the need to stick to the basic and required rules in complex situations like these, shooting in a civilian environment: Do not shoot when the threat is lowered, and we do not shoot at those who put their hands up. This specific case is of course still under investigation, these insights, it is important that we all know this right now," he said.