By: Robert Schmad, Daily Caller News Foundation
Israeli forces are fighting through a dense city in southern Gaza, where they believe Hamas’ leadership is sequestering themselves underground, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Israel is conducting military operations “in the heart of Khan Younis,” according to Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman, the largest city in southern Gaza and Hamas’ final bastion in the territory, the WSJ reported. As Israelis close in on the city where they believe Hamas’ senior members are hiding, including leader Yahya Sinwar, they face growing calls from the international community to end their war.
Finkelman said the fighting in Khan Younis is some of the most intense he’s seen since the beginning of the war.
Congressional Democrats have been pressuring the Biden Administration to pursue a ceasefire agreement in Gaza, Politico reported. Meanwhile, several major UN officials have called for a ceasefire in the region, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, according to CBC News.
“Ground operations by the Israel Defense Forces and continued bombardment are hitting civilians, hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches and UN facilities including shelters. No one is safe,” Guterres said in November.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans backed a ceasefire when polled in November, according to Reuters.
Israel and Hamas agreed to a temporary ceasefire in late November but the agreement only lasted days, with both sides accusing each other of violating the terms, according to the BBC.
While close to dealing a decisive blow to Hamas, international pressure is influencing the calculus of Israelis.
“I think Israel senses that the clock is ticking and they need to secure their positions,” Michael Horowitz, the head of intelligence at Le Beck International, told the WSJ.
Some security analysts believe that Israel would cripple Hamas if they took Khan Younis.
“If Hamas loses Khan Younis, they are done. They may have some enclaves there, but they will lose their centers of gravity,” Kobi Michael, a senior fellow at The Institute for National Security Studies, told the WSJ.
Israel has already occupied much of northern Gaza, according to the BBC.
While the war has been ongoing for less than two months, Israel has already eliminated about a sixth of Hamas’ estimated 30,000 fighters. Hamas, however, still holds many of the hostages it captured during its Oct. 7 terrorist attacks that killed more than 1,200 people in Israel.
Hamas is reportedly reluctant to release female hostages over fear of what they may say about their conditions in captivity.