By YAAKOV LAPPIN (JNS)
More than 10 of Hamas’s battalions in Gaza have sustained significant degradation since the start of the war on Oct. 7, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer said on Monday, Nov. 20.
The Al-Qassam Brigades is the main Hamas terror army unit, and around 1,000 terrorists operate in each of its 24 battalions, the officer said. Hamas battalion commanders dispatched terrorists to conduct the Oct. 7 mass murder and kidnap attack on the northwestern Negev, murdering some 1,200 people and kidnapping 240 people.
Command And Control
“More than 10 out of these 24 battalions have been damaged significantly. In some battalions, we eliminated hundreds of Hamas terrorists,” said the source, who then estimated that thousands of terrorists have been killed. Most of the battalions in question are in the northern Gaza Strip. Many Hamas commanders have been killed, he said, with some battalions seeing more than 50% of their commanders slain. “This can’t be replaced in a war,” asserted the officer. Hamas’s Northern Gaza Brigade saw two battalions lose over 50% of their commanders, and the Gaza City Brigade saw four battalions also lose more than 50% of their commanders, said the source.
“In Hamas, command and control is a very important issue. Muhammed Deif has been the leader of the Hamas army for many years, and as a leader and commander, his orders are important. In the last month, we haven’t seen Deif going out in public saying things he said before,” said the military official.
As a result, in many cases Hamas has found it has no field commanders to command terror operatives on the ground, harming its ability to counter-attack, he added. “This dismantles the ability of Hamas to fight right now and also to rehabilitate military power after the war. We won’t accept Hamas remaining with its military power.”
Hamas’s main rocket arsenal has been concentrated in northern Gaza, and the number of rockets fired at Israel is decreasing, reaching “nearly zero,” said the source. Hamas still has firepower, however, and “if we want to take it, we have to go to the south [of Gaza]. We will do whatever we will be told,” he added.
Civilian As Human Shields
Describing Hamas as “worse than ISIS,” the source that in recent years Hamas built up its military power under the cover of local government, civil and humanitarian aid, including assistance received from Israel. “Hamas consistently used the civilian population as human shields to execute attacks against Israeli civilians,” said the source, mentioning Shifa and Rantisi hospitals as prime examples. “They do it because they know it will be difficult for us to strike them.”
He added, “We evacuated more than a million citizens of Gaza to the south to prevent harm to them. Hamas is trying to stop them. Our operational plan is to eliminate Hamas. The way we operate is through a ground maneuver and air strikes. Our forces are encircling Gaza City to deepen achievements. Wherever we go, rocket fire on the civilian home front decreasing, and we are degrading the ability [of Hamas] to use tunnels,” which have been intentionally dug under civilian homes, schools and hospitals.
“We are cutting off the field from Hamas leadership. [The organization’s chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar can talk and give orders but there is no one to take these orders and act according to his directive.
At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, there are many indications of a massive underground terror complex that goes beyond the hospital, to the whole area around it, from where many Hamas commanders attempted to implement control of Hamas terror units, the source said.
“The underground complex in Gaza plays an important part in the Hamas operational vision. By taking it we are taking out an important part of Hamas’s plans,” he stated. However, Hamas operatives are also trained to fire on IDF soldiers when they see them, and this does not require command and control abilities.
Meanwhile, the IDF reported on Monday. Nov, 20, that its 504 Military Intelligence Unit, which includes field interrogators, which had opened a temporary field facility in southern Israel at the start of the war to conduct interrogations of Hamas prisoners in real-time, has became “a permanent facility for interrogations.”
“As part of the terrorist interrogations that have been going on since the start of the war, 300 terrorists of various terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip were interrogated and gave the locations of underground terrorist tunnels, warehouses and weapons, along with exposing the enemy’s methods of operation and the enemy’s assimilation efforts within the civilian population,” said the IDF.
“Throughout the war, the unit  has been operating with a wide variety of tools and methods to achieve three main goals: support the ground operation, collect intelligence to confirm targets, and lead and influence the effort to evacuate the civilian population to the south of the Gaza Strip,” it added.
As part of the effort to evacuate the civilian population from the northern Gaza Strip, the 504 unit helped the IDF make more than 30,000 phone calls, send over 10 million text messages, send more than nine million voice messages, as well as distribute about four million leaflets from the air and land, calling on the population to evacuate. The evacuation effort allows the IDF to broadly strike Hamas infrastructure in the designated area.
“Using accurate human intelligence provided by the 504 Unit, over 300 newfound enemy targets in the Gaza Strip were confirmed and over 100 targets were struck as part of the target production effort,” the military said.
The many hundreds of Hamas terrorists arrested have provided Israel with a lot of intelligence, forming a game-changing factor, the IDF official said.
A senior 504 Unit official added, “We received thousands of phone calls from Gazans, on a scale never seen before in the unit. It is evident that the residents of the Gaza Strip are not satisfied with the barbaric conduct of Hamas, the ordinary civilian understands that Hamas is bringing disaster to the residents of Gaza that will be difficult for them to recover from.”