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Friday, May 24, 2024

Israel has killed just a fifth of Hamas fighters – WSJ

Israel and the US have both reportedly adjusted their expectations for what constitutes victory after three months of fighting

Israel has killed between just 20% and 30% of Hamas’ fighters in Gaza since declaring war on the Palestinian militant group following its cross-border raid on October 7, according to US intelligence estimates reported by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

In a classified report compiled earlier this month, Washington estimated Hamas had between 25,000 and 30,000 fighters in Gaza before the war, plus thousands of members of the territory’s police force and other authorities, basing its estimates on intercepted communications, drone surveillance, and Israeli intelligence.

Read more: Israel to allow flour shipments for Gaza through key port: US

In addition to the estimated 5,000 to 9,000 dead militants, another 10,500 to 11,700 Hamas fighters have been wounded, a US official told the WSJ, clarifying that many of the latter could return to combat. The remaining fighters are likely doing “two or three jobs,” having assumed the responsibilities of their fallen comrades, retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel surmised.

Hamas, which has governed Gaza since 2007, also retains the firepower to continue striking Israel – and Israel Defense Forces assets in the Palestinian territories – “for months,” according to the Journal, which added that the group is currently trying to reestablish its police force in Gaza City despite much of the densely populated area being reduced to rubble.

Israel’s own estimates placed the starting number of Hamas fighters higher, at 30,000 or more, and credited the Israel Defense Forces with killing more members of the group – 9,000 during the war plus 1,000 during the raid that preceded it. Its estimate of 16,000 wounded Palestinian militants was also notably higher, as was its claim regarding the seriousness of those wounds – half of the injured won’t be fighting anymore, a senior Israeli military official told the WSJ.

Read more: Israel needs ‘years’ to break up Gaza tunnels – NYT

The US has tacitly acknowledged the failure of Israel’s three-month bombardment of Gaza to bring about the destruction of Hamas, its stated goal in waging war on the enclave. The administration of President Joe Biden has repeatedly urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reduce civilian casualties and adopt a more “surgical” strategy targeting high-ranking members of the organization rather than low-level fighters, even while lowering its own expectations from the obliteration of Hamas to its degradation as a security threat.

In announcing the withdrawal of thousands of troops from Gaza earlier this month, West Jerusalem, too, appeared to acknowledge the failure of its scorched-earth tactics, which have killed nearly 25,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The high reported rate of civilian casualties has triggered allegations of genocidal intent from the international community, culminating in a case filed by South Africa against Israel in the International Court of Justice.