ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Report: Sinwar fled from north Gaza in a humanitarian convoy

IDF chief: Hamas rule in Gaza faltering; leaked video shows apparent gunmen surrender

Army spokesman says dozens of terror group’s members handed over their weapons to soldiers in northern Strip, claims they complained ‘Hamas leadership is out of touch’

An apparent Hamas member with his hands up hands over an assault rifle after surrendering to troops in northern Gaza's Jabaliya, on December 9, 2023. (Social media: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
An apparent Hamas member with his hands up hands over an assault rifle after surrendering to troops in northern Gaza's Jabaliya, on December 9, 2023. (Social media: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Footage leaked Saturday from the northern Gaza Strip showed an apparent Hamas operative handing over an assault rifle while surrendering along with dozens of Palestinian men to Israeli troops, as IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said the military was beginning to see the collapse of the terror group’s governing system in the coastal enclave.

In the video, the man can be seen slowly walking past a tank while holding the gun and magazine over his head, before placing them on the ground. The other Palestinians, who like him are clad only in underwear, hold up their identification cards as they stand across the street from the tank, and a soldier shouts orders in Arabic over a megaphone.

“Slowly, slowly,” the soldier tells the man with the assault rifle.

Images had circulated on social media earlier this week showing dozens of men being detained by the Israel Defense Forces. The army’s spokesman later said it was interrogating everyone in the area who had surrendered after the fighting.

Hamas operatives have increasingly been surrendering to the IDF in other areas of Gaza amid the ongoing fighting, according to military officials.

“I see the achievements every day. We are seeing every day more and more terror operatives killed, more and more terror operatives wounded, and in recent days we’re seeing terrorists surrendering — a sign of the disintegration of the system, a sign that we need to push harder,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said at a Hanukkah candle lighting in the south with Nahal Brigade troops.

Later, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirmed many Hamas members surrendered Saturday to troops in Gaza, saying they revealed intelligence information on the terror group’s functioning amid the ground offensive.

“In Shejaiya and Jabaliya, terrorists who surrendered handed over weapons and equipment,” he said, confirming the leaked video.

“From the interrogations of the terrorists who surrendered, the following intelligence has emerged: The situation of the operatives on the ground is difficult, and the Hamas leadership, led by [Yahya] Sinwar, denies the reality even though it is updated on the details,” Hagari said.

“The operatives complain that the Hamas leadership is out of touch with the tough situation they are in on the ground,” he added.

Hagari said there was a “widespread feeling that the Hamas leadership underground does not care about the public in Gaza who are above ground,” adding that this also worries the Hamas operatives.

“The intelligence that emerges from the interrogations creates more targets and aids us in operational activity,” Hagari added.

A ball of fire rises above a building during an Israeli strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 9, 2023 (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Also Saturday, the Kan public broadcaster reported that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar fled northern Gaza at the beginning of the war by hiding in a humanitarian convoy heading southward.

Citing an Israeli official familiar with the details, the report said Sinwar escaped Gaza City and headed toward south Gaza’s Khan Younis in a vehicle that provided “humanitarian cover.” More precise details about the vehicle were barred from publication, according to the broadcaster.

The report said Israel assessed that Sinwar was still in Khan Younis, or rather in one of the tunnels that run underneath it.

Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in Gaza, delivers a speech during a meeting with people at a hall on the sea side of Gaza City, April 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Meanwhile, members of the war cabinet convened Saturday night for deliberations about the continued fighting in Gaza, along with whether to allow Palestinian workers back into Israel after they were barred in wake of the Hamas-led October 7 onslaught in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people and took around 240 hostage.

“Letting workers from the Palestinian Authority who are drenched in incitement into Israel right now is a continuation of the [failed] concept [that led to October 7] and the understanding that we did not understand anything from October 7,” far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir wrote on X as the war cabinet met.

An Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Friday that over 200,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip were entering their third month without working in Israel, as the IDF maintains a partial lockdown over the territories imposed since the Hamas attack.

Some 150,000 Palestinians from the West Bank had permits to enter Israel for work before the war.

An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 more Palestinians from the West Bank were entering illegally for work in critical industries such as construction.

Over 17,000 Palestinians from Gaza also had permits to work legally in Israel.

The overwhelming majority of those Palestinians have remained at home since, as Israel has taken steps to fully disconnect from Gaza while also maintaining significant curbs on movement in the West Bank it says are critical for maintaining security after the October 7 Hamas massacre.

A second source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel that Israel began allowing roughly 8,000 Palestinians from the West Bank to return to work in recent weeks.

This minority serves in industries that provide essential services, such as sanitation, health services and hospitality, the source said.

The vast majority of these 8,000 Palestinians work in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, while those with jobs inside the Green Line have largely been unable to return.

Palestinian workers, who were stranded in Israel since the October 7 attacks, cross back into the Gaza Strip at the Kerem Shalom commercial border crossing with Israel in the south of the Palestinian enclave on November 3, 2023. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The head of the Yesha council of settler mayors Shlomo Ne’eman penned a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week urging him not to allow the Palestinian workers back into the settlements, referring to them as a security threat to residents.

The letter made no mention of the fact that nearly 8,000 Palestinian workers are already back in the settlements.

Netanyahu was asked about the issue during a press conference this week during which he indicated that the security establishment is pushing for Israel to gradually allow the workers to return, given that mass unemployment in the West Bank risks destabilizing the territory further.

He said the matter would be brought before the security cabinet for debate before any decision was made.

The next day, the security cabinet convened but no decision was made on the matter so the Palestinian workers will remain home for the foreseeable future.

This means over $350 million in lost revenue for the West Bank economy each month.

The crisis is compounded due to the monthly tax revenues that the PA hasn’t received from Israel since the war started. Israel decided to deduct some $275 million from the funds that belong to Ramallah, leading the PA to refuse to accept any of the revenues, which make up over 60% of its budget.

Thousands of PA employees have not been receiving their salaries as a result.

Jacob Magid and agencies contributed to this report.

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