Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called on Hamas terrorists to surrender to Israeli troops, urging them not to sacrifice their lives for the terror group’s chief in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.
The comments followed remarks by Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi that there were signs that Hamas was collapsing, and as several images and videos circulated over the past week of dozens of men, some of them apparently Hamas operatives, surrendering and being detained by Israeli troops inside Gaza.
“In the past few days, dozens of Hamas terrorists have surrendered before our forces. They put down their weapons and turn themselves over to our brave fighters,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.
“It will take more time, the war is still in full force, but this is the beginning of the end of Hamas,” he added. “I say to the terrorists of Hamas: It’s over. Don’t die for Sinwar. Surrender now.”
A senior IDF officer also said Sunday that in recent days the military has identified “signs of Hamas breaking” in the Gaza Strip, as it continued its offensive against the terror group.
“The extent of the destruction and damage creates command and control problems [for Hamas]. There are areas in the Gaza Strip that Hamas no longer controls militarily,” the officer said.
בימים האחרונים עשרות מחבלי חמאס נכנעים בפני כוחותינו. הם מניחים את נשקם ומוסרים את עצמם לידי לוחמינו הגיבורים.
זה ייקח עוד זמן, המלחמה בעיצומה, אבל זה תחילת הסוף של החמאס.
אני אומר למחבלי החמאס: זה נגמר. אל תמותו בשביל סינוואר. תיכנעו – עכשיו. pic.twitter.com/ZeJloJMKBR
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) December 10, 2023
“Despite the achievements, we are not close to the end of the fighting. We continue to operate with great intensity, and work to dismantle entire battalions of Hamas,” he stated, adding that about half of the 24 Hamas battalion commanders have been eliminated in airstrikes and other operations.
Israel launched its military campaign after thousands of Hamas fighters invaded the south of the country on October 7, rampaging through communities and killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking another estimated 240 people hostage.
The IDF says it has killed 7,000 Hamas members or allied terrorists as it seeks to destroy the terror group, free the hostages, and ensure such an attack can never occur again. More than 22,000 targets in the Gaza Strip have been struck since the beginning of the war, 3,500 of them since the end of the ceasefire on December it said.
The targets have included Hamas infrastructure, including tunnels, weapons depots, command centers, and rocket launchers, as well as terror operatives.
The IDF said it is currently battling Hamas in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, Shejaiya, and Beit Hanoun, and in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
Meanwhile, Hamas’s military spokesperson Abu Obeida warned Sunday that none of the hostages it is still holding would leave the territory alive unless the group’s demands were met.
It was the first time in two weeks that Abu Obeida had released a statement, his silence prompting media speculation that he might have been killed in the fighting.
It is believed that 138 hostages remain in Gaza, although in recent days the IDF has confirmed the deaths of 18 of them, due to new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.
A further 105 civilian hostages were released from Hamas captivity in Gaza during a weeklong truce: 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino. In exchange, Israel released 240 Palestinian security prisoners, all women and minors. Earlier, four hostages were released, one hostage was rescued, and two bodies were recovered.
“Neither the fascist enemy and its arrogant leadership… nor its supporters… can take their prisoners alive without an exchange and negotiation and meeting the demands of the resistance,” Abu Obeida said in a televised broadcast, referring to the release of all Palestinian security prisoners held by Israel among other demands.
Netanyahu told the families of hostages at meeting a last week that there was no realistic possibility of a deal to secure the release of all the hostages, and that Hamas had demands that could not be met. “There is no possibility right now to bring everyone home. Can anyone really imagine that if that was an option, anyone would refuse it?” he said. “Hamas has demands that even you would not accept.”
Mediator Qatar said on Sunday that efforts to secure a new truce and release more hostages were ongoing, but warned that the relentless Israeli bombardment was “narrowing the window” for a successful outcome.
Obeida said the group would continue to fight Israeli forces.
“We have no choice but to fight this barbaric occupier in every neighborhood, street, and alley,” he said. “The enemy’s holocaust aims to break the strength of our resistance… but we are fighting on our land in a holy battle.”