After heavy Hamas rocket barrage, Halevi vows ‘we are ready’

Hamas fired a massive barrage of rockets at central Israel throughout the day Tuesday, setting off alarms in dozens of communities and cities around Tel Aviv, in the Negev, in the northern West Bank, and in the Gaza border area. There were hits in Alfei Menashe and Holon, with three people moderately wounded.

The barrage indicates that Hamas continues to possess long-range rockets, 18 days into the war. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi addressed the nation from the southern border: “I want to be clear, we are ready to invade,” he declared, as the IDF continued to weigh the timing of the ground war in coordination with the political echelon.

Expanding on the delay, which has puzzled some, Halevi said, “At this stage, there are tactical and strategic factors that are allowing us more time to improve and to exploit every minute to be more ready.” In contrast, “with every minute that passes for the other side, we are attacking the enemy more, killing their fighters, killing their commanders, destroying their infrastructure, and collecting more intelligence for the next moves.”

Continued rocket barrages toward Israel

The North was hit as well with rocket barrages on Tuesday, as Hezbollah fired an anti-tank missile at the border community of Shtula, and fired on Elkosh. An IDF UAV struck two terrorist cells that carried out rocket and mortar shell launches toward IDF posts, as well as a cell threatening Mount Dov.

Rockets are fired from Gaza towards Israel, on October 16 2023 (credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)
Israel continued to strike at Hamas targets in Gaza, including heavy hits in the northern part of the Strip, in the Shati camp, Shejaia, Jabalya, and other areas. IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Daniel Hagari added that the military continues to warn Gazans to emigrate to and remain in southern Gaza, where they can access humanitarian aid.

Israel also dropped more leaflets over Gaza “urging Palestinians to give them information about hostages being held by Hamas and offering them protection and a reward,” Reuters noted.

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The IDF added on Tuesday night that it attacked a terrorist frogman cell attempting to cross into Israeli territory by sea. Meanwhile, it continues to prepare for the expected ground incursion, which includes preparing as many units as are needed with training refresher courses in urban combat as well as general training for reservists. So far, 300,000 reservists have been called up since the war began.

While Hezbollah has deployed anti-tank missiles, rockets, mortars, drones, and small arms to threaten Israel, the IDF has continued to eliminate terrorist squads attempting to infiltrate. The IDF said five cells were eliminated on Monday and more were taken out Tuesday afternoon.

The Alma Research and Education Center noted that “since the start of the war in the northern arena, there have been two infiltration attempts, 200 rocket and mortar launches, and 30 ATGM [anti-tank missile] attacks” from Lebanon.Across the region, Iranian-backed proxies used drones to attack US forces in Iraq and Syria. The Houthis in Yemen, backed by Iran, have used drones as well.

The IDF said, “During combined operational activities, IDF tanks, helicopters, and artillery struck anti-tank missile launchers and observation posts in which Hamas terrorist operatives were located. Simultaneously, IAF helicopters and fighter jets struck terrorist infrastructure located in a multi-story building, as well as additional anti-tank infrastructure.

Striking terror outposts

In Gaza, the IDF killed a number of Hamas terrorists in at least 400 strikes against terrorist targets overnight, in addition to the 320 it struck between Sunday and Monday. The overall number of airstrikes has not been released, but it is likely approaching 10,000.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Israel on Tuesday, as the US continued to bolster forces in the region, amid reports that Israel was cautioned against a ground operation taking place without a plan for the day after, as well as reports that the US is concerned about a wider regional conflagration.

Overall, threats from Iran have been reduced in Iranian official media and rhetoric over Sunday to Tuesday. While Hezbollah continues to regularly list casualties, it also appears to have slightly reduced its attacks; it may have lost as many as 30 terrorists since October 7.

 In the Gulf, news reports are increasingly speculating as to what will happen to Gaza after the conflict; Al-Ain media discussed how the Palestinian Authority might return to Gaza. Lebanon has also reportedly put together an “emergency plan” to help civilians in case of a larger conflict in Lebanon.

Israeli soldiers look at a fire caused by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip at a forest near the border with the Gaza Strip, southern Israel, October 24, 2023. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Halevi’s comments were the most emphatic acknowledgment to date of criticism from the IDF of the government for delaying the counter-invasion of Gaza.

Nevertheless, the assessment is that Hamas is being put off balance by the continued aerial war.

“We are keeping them in tension,” said Halevi, suggesting that the longer Hamas waits for the Israeli invasion, the more stressed it will become.

He also cited the complexity of trying to rescue 220 hostages.

“Israel is at the height of a war that was started by the Hamas terrorist organization. It will regret it. It is starting to regret it even now,” Halevi said.

He has been briefing different units in the field and listening to fighters and commanders.

“We have trained for this, we have outfitted the troops with quality tools, among the most advanced in the world. But most importantly, we have the best warriors for these missions.”