US said to believe Israel killed just 20-30% of Hamas terrorists in Gaza fighting

Biden administration beginning to see removal of terror group as a security threat as a more achievable goal than entirely wiping it out, Wall Street Journal reports

Palestinians inspect the remains of a car reportedly hit by an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 20, 2024. (AFP)
Palestinians inspect the remains of a car reportedly hit by an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 20, 2024. (AFP)

Despite Israel’s vow to eradicate Hamas’s fighting capabilities, security forces have killed just 20-30 percent of the terror group’s terrorists in the Gaza Strip, US intelligence agencies are reportedly estimating.

The Wall Street Journal, citing a classified report, said Sunday morning that the US believes the terror group still has enough munitions to continue fighting Israeli forces for several months.

The report said Hamas fighters have adapted their tactics, carrying out ambushes on IDF units and then going into hiding.

Hamas is also trying to rebuild its police force in parts of Gaza City, according to US officials who confirmed details of the classified intelligence report.

The US’s upper limit matches the Israeli assessment. In 2021, a senior IDF commander said that Hamas was believed to have around 30,000 fighters. That figure matches recent US estimates of the number of fighters Hamas had before the conflict started, the report said.

Last week, the IDF said that more than 9,000 Hamas operatives and members of other terror groups have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7, when gunmen rampaged through southern communities, massacring some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting over 240 to Gaza.

This photograph taken on January 20, 2024 in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip shows a man holding one of the leaflets, which were dropped by Israeli forces over the city, showing portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel. The leaflet reads (bottom-R) ‘Do you want to go home? Please report any information if you recognize any of them.’ (AFP)

At the same time, Israel has a much higher estimate of the number of Hamas fighters who are no longer able to take up arms, assessing that 16,000 have been injured, half of whom cannot continue fighting, the WSJ said, citing an unnamed senior Israel official.

The US puts the number of Hamas men injured at between 10,500 and 11,700, many of whom could keep fighting, a US official told the newspaper.

The report noted that in US military doctrine, conventional forces that suffer a 25%-30% loss of their fighters are considered combat-ineffective. However, Hamas is an irregular force fighting in a defensive position in a dense urban environment with access to hundreds of miles of tunnels that can be used to move forces around and carry out attacks.

Though the losses it has sustained are putting pressure on Hamas, each of its fighters is possibly taking on additional roles, retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel, a past commander of US military operations in the Middle East, said.

Neither Hamas nor the US’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence would comment on the report, while the IDF offered only its already published estimates.

Israeli soldiers overlook the Gaza Strip from a tank, as seen from southern Israel, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

The IDF has assessed that fighting in Gaza will likely last throughout all of 2024, as Israel works to strip Hamas of its military and governing capabilities. It has also vowed to continue fighting until all remaining hostages are released from captivity.

The Biden administration has begun to lower its expectations from the conflict with Hamas removed as a security threat seen as more achievable than the destruction of the terror group.

Hamas, for its part, aims to just survive the war, according to current and past Israeli military officials, with one noting, “You don’t have to win, you just have to not lose.”

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