Army says Hamas was left in power so that one organization could be held accountable for terrorist attacks coming from Gaza.
The IDF did not take over the Gaza Strip or worked to completely destroy Hamas in order to leave an organization in power that would have to answer for terrorism in the Strip, a senior IDF source said on Sunday.
“There’s an Israeli interest to have one address in Gaza, we don’t want a Somalization in the Strip, but rather one group to enforce its control of the Strip. This is why the collapse of Hamas was not defined as one of the objectives,” the senior source said.
“We wanted to have an address on the other side on the day after. This address could be the enforcer against militants and take care of its citizens,” he added.
The senior source said that if the objective was to take down Hamas, the IDF could’ve easily have taken over the Gaza Strip within 10 days, and taken another year or two to search for and destroy terror infrastructure.
“This wasn’t the essence of our mission,” he said.
He asserted Hamas wanted to stop the fighting because “it planned to have killed 300-600 Israeli soldiers by now, and 60-80 Israeli civilians.” These expectations were based on the capabilities it developed, the source said.
The source said the current operation in Gaza will lead to a “longer window of security.”
“The objective is to change the reality from its very core, so we don’t have mutual fire in two months. We need to have a balance of hope in the Strip and a balance of security in Israel.”
Now that “deterrence has been achieved,” the source said he hopes the ceasefire agreement reached will be different to ones signed previously.
He also noted that while Hamas’ tunneling ability has been severely hit, the army cannot guarantee 100% security from the tunnel threat.
“Our working assumption is that they will try to renew digging,” he said.
As for what’s next now that the army is pulling most of its forces out of the Gaza Strip, the source said it had 3-4 options to present to the political leadership.
“Each option has pros and cons. We’ve build security zones for our troops in the field if we decide to stay,” he said.
He also noted that “if the ground operation is expanded, our targets would be Hamas command and control centers that have only been partially hit so far.”