As Israel’s military mobilizes for anof the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, thousands of troops are preparing at a rapid-response training facility at the Tse’elim army base approximately 30 miles south of Ashkelon. Known as “The Strip,” the installation was built in the wake of the to prepare troops for urban combat scenarios.
“Five days ago, there was nothing here,” said Lt. Col. Mati Shechavch, who is readying soldiers at the site for a chaotic, street-to-street hunt for Hamas militants inside Gaza.
Hamas claims it built an extensive 300-mile underground network that it uses to launch attacks.
“Some will hide in the tunnels,” Shechavch told CBS News. “Some will hide inside civilian houses. Some will take off their uniform because they’ll be so scared and put [on] civilian uniform, and some will come to fight to die.”
Despite the risk of death, Shechavch said the biggest concern for most soldiers is the prospect of the military being ordered to halt operations before accomplishing their mission of destroying Hamas.
“I think the major concern for most of the soldiers is we’re gonna have to stop at one point of time because we really want to end this war once and for all,” he said.
In Israel, officials say Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks killed about 1,400 people and wounded 3,500 others. The Gaza Health Ministry says 5,087 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory strikes, including more than 2,000 children.
The troops brought into the Israeli training site are motivated despite the threat of potential battle. Among them is Major Ron, who didn’t give his last name for security reasons.
“We want to get in cause this was, it was a genocide,” he said, referring to the attacks on Oct. 7
Other troops, including those ata crucial operational point housing two squadrons of Black Hawk helicopters, are also readying for potential missions targeting Hamas.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, Israel’s chief military spokesperson, told CBS News his message to the Palestinians is: “Hamas took you hostage. He kills his own people.”
Addressing the complex nature of combating Hamas, Hagari said. “I don’t think we can kill an idea. We must kill the leaders. We must destroy the governing. We must destroy the infrastructure of the terror … We need to show them that this idea is wrong.”
As for whether another group like Hamas could crop up after the militant group is possibly destroyed, Hagari called it a “political question,” but recognized the potential threat of another entity arising.
“We’ll do the aftermath together with, with the world, with the world and our partners and our original partners in order to understand what grow up, because we don’t want another ISIS to grow up,” said Hagari.
Shechavch said troops are prepared to be in battle in Gaza “as long as it takes to take all threats off of our civilians.”
“What’s gonna happen after that’s a question for a politician or, I don’t know,” he said.
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