Members of the Islamist group have surrendered to Israeli forces in both the north and south of the enclave, which the IDF says is "a sign of the disintegration of the system"

Hamas leadership wobbles as Israel intensifies pressure on Gaza

PHOTO/AFP/MAHMUD HAMS - Un soldado israelí toma posiciones dentro de un edificio dañado para vigilar la carretera de Salaheddine
photo_camera PHOTO/AFP/MAHMUD HAMS - An Israeli soldier takes up positions inside a damaged building to guard the Salaheddine road.

The war between Israel and Hamas is now in its second month with no prospect of an end in sight. Likewise, after Hamas violated the temporary truce, hopes for a new ceasefire are fading despite the efforts of countries such as Qatar and Egypt. 

Israel has intensified its operation in Gaza since then. According to IDF figures, more than 3,500 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip have been hit from air, sea and land over the past 10 days.

This figure is included in the more than 22,000 targets hit by the IDF since the start of the war on 7 October following the Hamas attack on Israel that left 1,200 dead. Meanwhile, in Gaza, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health, more than 17,000 people have died since the start of the fighting.

As Israel increases pressure on Gaza, dozens of members of the terrorist group have surrendered to the IDF in both Khan Younis in southern Gaza and Jabaliya in the north. "We are seeing terrorists surrendering, this is a sign of the disintegration of the system and that we must push harder," explained Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi. 

Army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari confirmed the mass surrenders of Hamas members over the weekend, saying many of them revealed intelligence about the terrorist group's operations.

"In Shejaiya and Jabaliya, the terrorists who surrendered handed over their weapons and equipment," Hagari said, confirming videos circulated on social media of half-naked and handcuffed suspected terrorists that have provoked a strong backlash from international public opinion.

The Israeli army has assured that people who "have not been involved in terrorist activities will be released". According to Israel's Channel 12, 60 per cent of the 700 people who have been arrested are not terrorists. A Haaretz report also claims that only 10-15% of the men arrested are affiliated with Hamas.

"We wish all Hamas fighters wore uniforms because that would make it easier to identify them. But when Hamas [members] disguise themselves as civilians and fight in civilian areas, it makes it very difficult to find them," government spokesman Eylon Levy told CNN.

Hagari also revealed that many of those arrested have claimed during interrogation that "Hamas leaders are not aware of the difficult situation on the ground".

These statements come shortly after the IDF released a video showing Hamas members beating Gazans in the Shuja'iyya neighbourhood and looting bags of humanitarian supplies.

Netanyahu: "Don't die for Sinwar"

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Hamas members to continue to surrender and hand over their weapons. "I say to the Hamas terrorists: it's over. Do not die for Yahya Sinwar (Hamas leader in Gaza)," Netanyahu said in a statement, saying that "the beginning of the end has come" for the Islamist group. According to Israeli media outlet Kan, Sinwar fled northern Gaza at the start of the war by hiding in a humanitarian convoy heading south. 

In addition to those who have surrendered, the army estimates that some 7,000 Hamas members have been killed in Israeli attacks. In addition, the number of Israeli soldiers killed during the ground operation in Gaza now stands at 104. Hand-to-hand fighting against Hamas fighters has also left more than 500 military personnel wounded, at least 127 of them in serious condition.

The Israeli leader also stressed that the war continues "with more force and intensity" to achieve the goals: the destruction of Hamas and the rescue of the hostages, as well as "the promise that Gaza will never again be a threat to Israel".

During the week-long truce, 105 hostages were released - 86 Israelis and 24 foreigners, although more than 130 hostages remain in Gaza, including 20 women and 11 foreigners. In recent days, however, Israel has announced the death in captivity of 18 of the hostages based on intelligence and findings by Israeli troops in Gaza.

The 20 women abducted by Hamas who are still in Gaza were scheduled to be released during the truce as stipulated in the agreement. However, Hamas did not hand over the list of their names and broke the ceasefire. According to the US State Department, the Islamist group does not want to release women it is holding for fear that they will report cases of sexual violence by fighters.

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