Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday touted the expansion of IDF ground operations in the Gaza Strip to new areas as crucial for securing a deal with Hamas for the release of Israeli hostages on acceptable terms.
"The growing intensity of the operation in Gaza brings us closer to making a deal to return additional hostages," Gallant said at a Cabinet meeting at an IDF base in southern Israel where he presented fellow ministers with military equipment and documents belonging to Hamas seized in Gaza.
"This morning, we are hosting the Cabinet meeting at an IDF base to show the ministers exactly how we deepen our achievements in Gaza and the materiel that’s been seized during the operations," Gallant said in a video statement as rockets, missiles, landmines, maps, documents and other military supplies are seen strewn across the room. "All of these things lead to the fact that the intelligence that the IDF relies on now isn’t only by Military Intelligence."
According to him, "We entered into Hamas’ most sensitive locations and use their intelligence against them. We use their military equipment and detonate them in the field, with all of these things being enabled by how far we’ve reached into the terrorist organization’s activity. As we deepen this operation, the closer we bring a deal to return the hostages."
Shortly after Gallant's announcement, a senior Hamas official warned that expanding IDF operations to the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, where most of the territory's population resides, would immediately halt hostage negotiations.
The ministers were invited to tour the IDF base serving as the headquarters of the elite Yahalom Special Combat Engineering Unit. During the tour, ministers received a security briefing from IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and other senior IDF officials.
The tour follows weeks of complaints from ministers that the IDF chief deemed it inappropriate to brief them on the war, leading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to validate their concerns and call for a scheduled meeting between both parties.
Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs clarified on Saturday to the ministers that "this is a visit of the entire government to the base alongside the prime minister, which will include comprehensive security briefings by the IDF chief of staff and other senior IDF officials, and will allow the ministers to ask questions as they have requested for weeks.
“The whole visit will be devoted solely to issues touching on the military effort, without discussions on decisions and proposals on the agenda, this will not be a regular Cabinet meeting,” he added.