Oct. 7 onslaught 'fundamentally changes our security reality'

IDF chief says ground op delayed by tactical, strategic matters; rockets target center

IDF drops fliers in Strip promising Gazans reward for info on hostages; no injuries as projectiles hit West Bank settlement, Sderot

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to media near the Gaza border, on October 24, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/ Times of Israel)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to media near the Gaza border, on October 24, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/ Times of Israel)

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said Tuesday that the Hamas terror group “regrets” launching a war against Israel, and said that a ground offensive into Gaza was being delayed by “tactical and even strategic considerations.”

“Israel is in the midst of a war that was launched by the Hamas terror group. [Hamas] already regrets it,” Halevi said at a press conference near the Gaza border. “We’ve prepared for this. The IDF and the Southern Command have prepared quality offensive plans to achieve the goals of the war.”

His comments came as Hamas terrorists continued to fire rockets toward southern and central Israel on Tuesday, and the IDF continued to strike a range of Hamas targets in the Strip.

The IDF chief added that the military was “ready for the [ground] maneuver, and we will make a decision with the political echelon regarding the shape and timing of the next stage.

“We are making use of every minute to be even more prepared,” he said. “And every minute that passes on the other side, we strike the enemy even more: killing terrorists, destroying infrastructure, collecting more intelligence for the next stage… This is our state, our home, and we will defend it by every means.”

Halevi said that Hamas’s slaughter of some 1,400 Israelis on October 7 “is unprecedented since the founding of the state. It will require a fundamental change in our security reality. There will be a cost to that, including as regards the length of the war. This war has one address: the Hamas leadership and all those who acted under its command. They will pay the price for what they did.”

The scene where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit and caused damage in the southern city of Sderot, October 24, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The IDF chief said nobody should doubt Hamas’s cruelty and barbarism. “We recommend that Hamas treat the Israeli citizens it holds hostage with respect.” This is “essential,” he said, but it bears no relationship to the “gravity of the treatment” the IDF will mete out to Hamas. Nothing, he stressed, could atone in any way for what Hamas did on October 7, and what it has done “since then to every one of the hostages, those killed, and their families.”

“The IDF is fighting Hamas, it is not fighting Gaza’s populace,” Halevi continued. “The IDF wants the residents of Gaza to come through this war as unharmed as possible.” This was the reason Israel was urging residents to evacuate to safe areas, in southern Gaza, where they will find food, water and medicine, he said. “Every resident of Gaza should take the responsible decision [to evacuate] for the sake of their lives.”

Where fuel is needed by civilians, Israel will ensure it is available. “We will not allow fuel for Hamas, with which it can continue to fight Israel.”

Meanwhile, terrorists in Gaza fired rockets Tuesday toward several major Israeli cities, among other targets, as the Israeli military continued bombarding Hamas targets in the Strip and dropped leaflets promising rewards to Gazans who anonymously hand over information about the estimated 220 people being held captive in the territory.

A convoy of Israeli army trucks carrying mortar shells advances on a road near the southern city of Sderot, October 23, 2023. (Thomas COEX / AFP)

The afternoon rocket attacks, which featured several large barrages, targeted the cities of Beersheba, Ashdod, Lod, Rehovot, Ness Ziona and communities near Ben Gurion Airport east of Tel Aviv, as well as settlements in the northern West Bank, including Elkana and Alfei Menashe.

Several Iron Dome interceptions were reported, but one projectile directly hit a home in Alfei Menashe and caused a fire. Hebrew media said there were no casualties as the inhabitants had entered the home’s bomb shelter. Earlier in the day, a rocket fell in Sderot and caused damage but no injuries.

Most of the attacks continued to be directed at communities near the Gaza border that have largely been evacuated following the devastation caused by Hamas’s October 7 mass infiltration, which saw some 2,500 terrorists ravage entire communities and murder some 1,400 people, most of them civilians slaughtered in their homes or at an outdoor music festival, in what officials have called the worst single-day attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

The rocket attacks — which earlier in the war featured thousands of projectiles launched in a matter of a few days, frequently targeting central Israel — have significantly abated over the past few days. However, the Israel Defense Forces said this was no cause for comfort and was likely a deliberate ploy.

“Complacency must not be shown in the home front. This is an attempt by the enemy to put us to sleep,” IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said, warning that Hamas still has significant rocket-launching capabilities.

Hamas is believed to have slowed down the rate of rocket fire in order to conserve stockpiles for a long war, with Israel preparing for over two weeks for a large-scale ground operation it says is imminent, with the aim of destroying Hamas and toppling it from power.

Meanwhile, the IDF has been bombing countless Hamas targets in the Strip, urging Gazan civilians to flee to the south and reducing entire neighborhoods in northern Gaza to rubble an in attempt to make it easier on the troops once the ground offensive is launched.

The army said Tuesday morning that it had carried out strikes against some 400 Hamas targets over the previous 24 hours, and killed several field commanders and other terror operatives.

Palestinians inspect homes destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in the city of Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, October 24, 2023. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

According to the IDF, the recent strikes focused on Hamas staging grounds across the Gaza Strip — including several in mosques — and against terror operatives preparing rocket fire on Israel.

The IDF said it also struck the entrance of a Hamas tunnel on the Gaza coast and command centers overnight.

The recent strikes have left several Hamas field officers dead, including the deputy commanders of the terror group’s Nuseirat, Shati and Furqan battalions, the IDF said.

More than 5,700 people have died during Israel’s attacks, according to unverified numbers given by the Hamas-run health ministry. They are believed to include its own members and the victims of hundreds of misfired Palestinian rockets Israel says have landed in Gaza since October 7, including one that hit a hospital parking lot and killed scores of civilians.

The United States is reportedly concerned that Israel lacks achievable military goals for its operations in Gaza, leading US officials to believe that the IDF is not yet ready for a ground incursion.

The campaign is also understood to have been postponed to allow for extensive internationally-brokered negotiations with Hamas over the potential release of hundreds of Israeli and foreign hostages it is holding. These talks have resulted in four captives being freed — mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Ra’anan on Friday night, and elderly women Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper on Monday night.

Lifshitz on Tuesday recounted her ordeal, described how her terrorist captors took her by motorcycle from Kibbutz Nir Oz to the Gaza Strip on October 7 and into a “spiderweb” of tunnels, and accused Israel’s leadership of failures that made her and others into “scapegoats.”

Freed Israeli hostage Yocheved Lifshitz speaks to the press, with her daughter at her side, at Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv on October 24, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The IDF said Tuesday that it had dropped leaflets in Gaza asking Palestinians to provide Israel with information on the rest of the hostages held by Hamas and other terror groups.

“If you want a better future for you and your children, take action and provide us with solid and useful information as soon as possible regarding the hostages in your area,” the flier read.

“The Israeli army assures you that it will put forth maximum effort to provide you and your home with security, as well as a financial reward,” it continued.

“We guarantee you complete confidentiality,” it said, adding a secure phone line (*8619) and a mobile number (+972503957992) that can be contacted via the WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal messaging apps.

Meanwhile, the IDF’s Arabic-language account on X, formerly Twitter, shared a post with two aerial images purportedly showing 12 fuel tanks hidden in the ground near the Rafah crossing, in the south of Gaza, saying these were stocks of fuel that Hamas has been withholding from the civilian population as the Strip’ faces a fuel crisis.

“This is what over half a million liters of diesel fuel looks like,” wrote IDF Arabic spokesman Avichay Adraee, “while Hamas keeps claiming it does not have enough fuel to support hospitals and food production.”

“Hamas-ISIS steals this fuel from civilians and transfers it to its tunnels, rocket launchers and leaders. This is what Hamas’s list of priorities looks like,” he continued. “Residents of Gaza, the address for your complaints is not Israel. It’s Yahya Sinwar, Muhammad Deif and other Hamas-ISIS members who pushed Gaza into this abyss.”

Meanwhile in Israel, the Health Ministry reported that as of 8 a.m. on Tuesday, 278 people injured on or since October 7 remained in hospitals across the country.

Of them, 40 were in serious condition, 164 were in moderate condition and 74 were in good condition.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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