War cabinet deliberates latest hostage-for-ceasefire deal

Gallant vows war won’t end until Hamas is destroyed; IDF advances further in Rafah

Defense minister says Israel ‘advancing an alternative’ to terror group’s rule; troops find rocket launchers, arms near Egypt border; fighter jets hit over 30 targets across Gaza

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) meets with IDF Southern Command chief, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman (center), at the unit's HQ in Beersheba, June 2, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) meets with IDF Southern Command chief, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman (center), at the unit's HQ in Beersheba, June 2, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Sunday that Israel was working on finding a replacement for Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip, vowing that the war will not end until the terror group is dismantled of both its military and governmental capabilities.

“In any process of ending the war, we will not accept Hamas rule. We are advancing an alternative government to Hamas, within the framework of which we will isolate areas, remove the Hamas members and bring in other forces that will enable a different government,” Gallant said following an assessment at the Southern Command in Beersheba.

“On one hand, military action, and on the other, the ability to change the regime [in Gaza], will lead to the achievement of two of the goals of this war: the dismantling of the Hamas government and its military power, and the return of the hostages,” he added.

Gallant’s comments came after US President Joe Biden on Friday presented what he described as the latest Israeli proposal for a hostage deal and ceasefire to end the war in Gaza. The US president’s address triggered shockwaves in the Israeli government, where far-right parties threatened to bring down the coalition if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to see it approved.

The war cabinet convened Sunday evening to discuss the proposal and its possible implementation, given international and domestic pressure to accept the deal aimed at securing the release of 121 hostages believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza since being kidnapped on October 7.

Despite Netanyahu’s insistence that there will be no permanent ceasefire in Gaza until Hamas’s military and governing capabilities are destroyed, the heads of the government’s two ultranationalist parties, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir of Otzma Yehudit, both threatened Saturday night to bring down the government if the new deal is adopted.

Large crowds gather near the Begin Gate of the Defense Ministry Headquarters in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2024, demanding the government accept the hostage release proposal as laid out by US President Joe Biden (Oded Engel / Pro-Democracy Reform Movement)

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz has also issued an ultimatum to Netanyahu, demanding last month that the premier commit to an agreed-upon vision for the Gaza conflict that would include stipulating who might rule the territory after Hamas’s defeat, and warning that he would bolt the coalition should this not happen by June 8.

The deliberations came as the Israel Defense Forces pushed on with its campaign to root out Hamas in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah. The IDF said on Sunday that troops had recently begun to operate in the Yabna camp in central Rafah, adjacent to the border with Egypt.

Troops of the Givati Brigade killed several terror operatives and located military infrastructure during recent operations in the area, the IDF said, adding that soldiers also located many weapons, including anti-aircraft machine guns.

Troops of the 9th Armored Battalion, operating under the Givati Brigade in the area, located several rocket launching pits on the Gaza-Egypt border.

Troops of the Givati Brigade operate in southern Gaza’s Rafah, in a handout photo published June 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli fighter jets struck more than 30 targets across Gaza over the past day, according to an IDF update on Sunday morning. The targets included Hamas infrastructure, weapon depots and cells of gunmen.

Nahal Brigade troops in Rafah also directed an airstrike against a rocket launcher, moments after it was used to attack troops in the area. There were no injuries in the rocket attack.

The IDF published images of rocket launchers and a weapons depot discovered by Nahal Brigade troops in Rafah in recent days. The troops used a small drone to scan a suspicious building, where several barrels packed with explosives were located, according to the military.

Over the weekend, the IDF announced the names of a number of “prominent” Hamas operatives who were killed in airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in recent days.

On Thursday, fighter jets struck in central Gaza’s Nuseirat, killing Mansour Adil Mansour Kashlan, whom the IDF said was involved in advancing terror attacks in Israel and in the West Bank.

“The terrorist… advanced and carried out terror activities, as well as engaged in coordination and cooperation with terror groups in the Gaza Strip and other countries,” the military said.

An IDF tank takes position in an area of Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip on June 2, 2024. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

In another strike this past week in central Gaza, carried out by a drone, Walid Abed Abu Dalal was killed. The IDF said Abu Dalal served in the terror group’s military wing, alongside his role as head of the technology department in Hamas’s internal security forces.

The military noted that Hamas’s internal security forces, and especially its technology department, “harm the IDF’s freedom of action in the Gaza Strip, and are also a significant part of Hamas’s counter-espionage attempts.”

In a separate strike, on Friday, also in Nuseirat, Tareq Darwish was killed. According to the IDF, Darwish was a prominent member of the Nuseirat Battalion’s aerial array. The military said he was killed following attempts in the past month to “impede the IDF’s freedom of aerial action” in Gaza.

The IDF released footage of the latter strike.

In another strike last week, the IDF said it killed Salame Baraka, a member of Hamas’s East Khan Younis Battalion, who also served as head of the finance department in the terror group’s police.

The military said that it also targeted a building belonging to the Al-Noor organization in Gaza City last week week. According to the IDF, Al-Noor is classified as a terror group, due to its funding of Hamas.

The military said Al-Noor transferred millions of dollars to Hamas for terror activity in the West Bank, as well as distributing funds to the families of Hamas operatives killed or jailed by Israel.

The strike against the organization’s building in the area of Gaza City’s Daraj and Tuffah neighborhoods took place on Thursday.

IDF troops operate in the Gaza Strip in a photo approved for publication on June 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Also in Gaza City, the IDF said it launched a new pinpoint raid against Hamas in the Sabra neighborhood this past week, carried out by the Multi-Domain, or Ghost Unit, alongside the Carmeli and Yiftah reserve brigades, under the 99th Division.

Troops of the elite Ghost Unit, alongside other forces, killed dozens of gunmen and demolished a weapons depot in Sabra over the past two days, the IDF said, adding that soldiers also located weapons and many tunnel shafts during sweeps of the area.

The IDF first operated in the Sabra neighborhood during the beginning of the ground offensive last year, after Hamas started the war with its October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

IDF troops operate in the Gaza Strip in a photo approved for publication on June 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Talks on reopening Rafah Crossing

Meanwhile, a meeting between US, Egyptian and Israeli officials was scheduled to take place on Sunday in Cairo to discuss the reopening of Gaza’s Rafah Crossing, according to a high-level source quoted by Egypt’s state-linked Al Qahera TV.

Egypt is insisting that Israel withdraw its forces from the crossing, according to Al Qahera, after the IDF seized the Palestinian side of the crossing in May.

In a weekly humanitarian aid summary, meanwhile, the IDF said on Sunday that 1,858 trucks carrying humanitarian aid had entered the Gaza Strip after being inspected by Israeli authorities.

It said the trucks — carrying food, water, medical equipment, and shelter equipment — entered Gaza via the Kerem Shalom Crossing in the Strip’s south and the Erez West Crossing in the north of the territory.

The numbers include 764 trucks from Egypt, the IDF says. Egypt had briefly halted humanitarian aid deliveries after the IDF took over the Rafah Crossing last month, before agreeing, in coordination with the United States, to resume deliveries via Kerem Shalom.

There was no mention of airdrops of aid to Gaza, where the United Nations has warned of “imminent famine” among many of the densely-populated coastal enclave’s 2.3 million population.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The toll, which cannot be verified, includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

A total of 294 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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