IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, a former commander of the navy's elite commando Sayeret 13 special forces unit, has given many briefings since the start of the war, appearing before Israeli audiences twice a day like clockwork. While politicians and analysts talk endlessly on TV all day long, sometimes providing little more than background noise, when Hagari began speaking, the volume all over Israel was turned up and he was given the full attention of viewers.
On Monday, Hagari appeared in full uniform and helmet, reporting from inside Gaza City. He entered the Al Rantisi Children's Hospital, walked through a dark hallway leading into a room, obviously prepared to house hospitalized children, with drawings on the walls, and showed the world a stockpile of Hamas munitions on the ground.
"Hamas is using hospitals like we showed the evidence in Al-Shifa hospital, we are now seeing it live, in Rantisi hospital," he said, kneeling before the weaponry on the ground. "Such munitions are for the purpose of a major battle. Among hospitalized patients, we have hand grenades, AK-47 assault rifles and RPGs. People shooting RPGs from hospitals. The world has to understand who Israel is fighting against."
This was the most dramatic and incriminating evidence of the ruthless tactics employed by Hamas in their terror operations. This evidence could also serve to counter the attempts to delegitimize the IDF's offensive actions in other hospitals, including the most central and largest, Al-Shifa Hospital.
Hagari showed a baby's bottle found inside the Hamas underground compound, indicating the probability that Israeli hostages were held there. "Our forensic teams will investigate whether the hostages were here," Hagai said. "But the construction of toilets and the arrangement of the rooms bolster our suspicions."
A significant portion of Hamas' nerve center was located there, and it's probable that if Israeli abductees were held at Rantisi Hospital, they may have passed through Al-Shifa as well. The timing of the briefing was crucial, coinciding with the US President's expression of hope that the IDF's operation in Al-Shifa would be "less invasive" and his statement that the citizens "must be protected".
The fact that Hamas couldn't contain itself and ran out to declare these are all manufactured lies, is the most reliable piece of evidence that it's the truth. There's little doubt these findings hit a nerve, and with the aid of these photos and videos, Israel enters the public opinion war backed by plenty of decisive evidence, for once. This will help in buying what the IDF needs more than anything at this point - time. It's a precious commodity indeed, considering the balancing act Israel must perform, between eradicating Hamas and negotiating the successful release of the hostages.
An Israeli official suggested that advancing such a deal is up to Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar. "His forces are heavily battered and the Palestinian public has lost trust in him. The military's advances are putting him in a tough spot, which is why he's interested in advancing the first stage of the hostage deal, hoping it would bring about the end of the war while he still controls some assets."
One might think that the descriptions of Hamas' reduced state might be a stretch and things aren't quite that bad for the terror group, but repeated reports from security sources, as well as the footage on the ground, show that whatever piece of infrastructure Hamas utilized to plan and carry out terrorist acts, now lies in rubble. "Citizens are looting Hamas bases of operation, they've lost trust in them," said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
With every passing day, a clear image emerges, showing that incessant IDF attacks have left Hamas in a situation where they have all but ceased functioning as an organized paramilitary, quasi-political organization. When you see the Israeli flag hoisted high on the Hamas Legislative Council building, it's pretty clear that the IDF has been making some serious headway lately. And let's not forget the symbolic meaning of that image.
But, even with all these wins on the ground, and those who cast doubts on the statements of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, we must admit there's still a fair bit of road to travel. The IDF's going to have to gear up for more operations, and the Southern Command is all about stepping up the pace in the Gaza Strip. The situation's gotten even trickier with close to a million Palestinian civilians moving southward.
A senior IDF officer says striking Hamas must continue unabated, striking the iron while it's hot and giving Hamas no respite. The barrage or rockets at central Israel on Monday evening showed that while Hamas may be struggling, it is still able to attack. The political echelon must be mindful of the value of time, and resist international pressure for a ceasefire, as long as it can.
And let's not forget the northern front. The threat of a full-scale war with Hezbollah is far from over. "Our mission is to provide security," said IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy when he visited the Northern Command. "We must provide enough security for residents of the north, to feel secure coming back home."