Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi: “We’re releasing some reserves, knowing that we’ll call on them again.”
By Yaakov Lappin
January 19, 2024
(JNS) — The Israel Defense Forces eliminated a senior Palestinian Islamic member who was instrumental in propagating the organization’s narrative through media, the military announced on Friday.
Wael Abu-Fanounah was the deputy head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s psychological warfare operations. He held several positions within the terrorist organization’s ranks, including as an assistant to Khalil Bahtini, the Islamic Jihad’s Commander of the northern region of the Gaza Strip, the military stated.
Abu-Fanounah was responsible for publishing videos of PIJ rocket attacks, as well as the “creation and distribution of documentation of the Israeli hostages as part of the psychological warfare waged against the Israeli public by the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip,” the IDF added.
Meanwhile, across Gaza, IDF ground troops and naval units engaged in joint operations against terror targets that included the use of precision airstrikes. The navy is assisting ground troops through sea-based strikes, according to the military.
The IDF currently has three divisions deployed in Gaza, in the north, center and south of the strip. It reported clashes and engagements throughout Gaza during the day.
“In northern Gaza, over the last day, combined air and ground forces engaged and killed several armed terrorists,” said the military.
In Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, the IDF’s 7th Brigade, operating under the 98th Division, raided terrorist infrastructure, and seized weaponry. It also found underground terror infrastructure, the IDF said.
“In the activity, the forces raided a Hamas post used as a training compound for the [Hamas] Khan Yunis Brigade and as a meeting place for senior Hamas officials. In the area, the soldiers located tunnel shafts, dozens of rocket launchers, weapons and models of IDF tanks, used for training. The models were demolished by the forces,” the military stated.
During a meeting with commanders of the 99th Division in the Gaza Strip held on Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, stated: “We understand that for the reserve forces, there is an inbuilt tension between serving on the battlefield and returning home. We are operating according to plan, releasing some of the reserve forces, knowing that we will call on them again.”
Halevi held a situation assessment with the head of IDF Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman, the head of the Personnel Directorate; Maj. Gen. Yaniv Assor; and the Commanding Officer of the 99th Division, Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram.
‘Defend its borders from any threat’
Meanwhile, in the north, IDF sensor systems identified a hostile unmanned aerial vehicle that traveled south from Lebanon over the Mediterranean Sea, north of Israel. An Iron Dome battery shot it down.
On Dec. 22, the IDF released footage of a UAV it intercepted over Lebanese waters likely headed towards the Karish offshore gas rig.
Also on Friday, the Israeli Air Force launched airstrikes on Hezbollah projectile launch posts, military compounds and terrorist infrastructure in the region near the town of Ramyeh in Southern Lebanon, the IDF Spokesperson Unit stated.
IAF fighter jets also struck targets within the Southern Lebanese areas of Houla and Kfarkela on Friday morning, while the IDF used mortar launchers and tanks to hit Hezbollah observation posts and additional targets.
“Hezbollah’s ongoing terrorist activity and attacks against Israel violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701. The IDF will continue to defend its borders from any threat,” said the military.
The IDF confirmed on Friday that during the previous day, its tanks struck Syrian army targets in response to launches that targeted the Golan Heights.
Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, commanding officer of the IDF Northern Command, and Maj. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, head of the IDF Strategic Planning and Cooperation Directorate, hosted the U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew at the IDF Northern Command Headquarters in Safed on Friday.
“During the visit, Ambassador Lew was briefed by the Commanding Officer of the Northern Command regarding the threats posed by the Hezbollah terrorist organization along the Blue Line,” said the military. “The officials also discussed the understanding that Israel cannot revert to the security conditions that were in place prior to October 7. The security situation on the northern border must change, and the threat to the residents of the north must be removed—either through military action or through diplomatic means,” it added.
‘Operating until goals of war are achieved’
Israeli determination to dismantle what remains of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities in Gaza, and secure the return of hostages, remains unwavering, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin over the phone on Thursday, Gallant’s office announced on Friday.
Gallant emphasized the determination of the government and defense establishment “to continue operating until the goals of the war are achieved,” his office added.
He briefed Austin on the operational developments in the war, detailing the significant strides made in neutralizing terror infrastructure and targeting Hamas operatives.
During the call, the two also discussed the humanitarian situation in Gaza and steps that the IDF has been taking to minimize civilian harm in its ongoing offensive against Hamas.
Addressing the ongoing conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Gallant raised concerns over the threat posed to Israel’s northern border.
He emphasized the urgency of restoring normalcy for the displaced Israeli communities—some 80,000 northern residents are internally displaced—and reaffirmed Israel’s readiness for diplomatic solutions, coupled with sustained military preparedness.