buildings in Khan Younis
© Omar Ashtawy/APA ImagesPeople walk past destroyed buildings in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 21, 2024
Israeli military sources estimate that Hamas will not be decisively defeated in Gaza until 2026 or 2027, even as Hamas reasserts civilian control of the largely destroyed city of Khan Yunis following the army's withdrawal, Israeli media reported on 4 May.

Sources speaking with Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said, "We will not be in Gaza permanently. We'll return for extensive raids deep into the territory to defeat a terror army built over 15 years."

The sources add that "Meanwhile, the achievements of the forces that fought in Gaza are eroding, and there's no conclusive political solution."

The comments came amid reports that Hamas is reasserting security control over Khan Yunis following the withdrawal of the Israeli army and the slow return of Palestinians to their homes, or what is left of them, in the southern Gaza City since last month.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported that for Israel, it is becoming "increasingly difficult to achieve even the more modest goals of the war: reducing Hamas' civilian, not just military, control, especially after the IDF's main military operation ended this week, to continue with limited raids."

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The paper added that "The Air Force will not target every municipal worker currently clearing debris from the streets with a tractor, nor will it strike every Gazan head of sanitation or regional education department manager still receiving their salary from Hamas."

Previous reporting from +972 Magazine indicated that the Air Force was using artificial intelligence to develop target lists to assassinate thousands of low-level Hamas members by bombing their homes at night while they slept with their wives and children.

Yedioth Ahronoth says the Israeli army now struggles to identify and target the intact internal security mechanisms of Hamas.

It noted a successful case last month in which the air force identified members of Hamas' internal security services in Shujaiyah's Kuwait Square last month and immediately launched airstrikes, killing most of them.

The paper also noted the Israeli military assassinated the mayor of the Maghazi refugee camp, Hatem al-Ghamri, for serving as the head of the local emergency committee for Hamas. The committee was responsible for distributing humanitarian aid to the camp's residents.

"Since the first day of the war, the mayor has been working to provide relief services to tens of thousands of displaced people who sought refuge in the camp," Mohammad al-Ayedi told the Palestine Chronicle.

"He directly supervised the central emergency committee of the camp and continued to work diligently until the day of his martyrdom. Indeed, he was killed while fulfilling his mission of providing relief to the displaced," he added.

However, Yedioth Ahronoth notes, "the challenge of locating and targeting the dispersed workforce of thousands of Hamas operatives is akin to finding a needle in a haystack."

Instead, video footage and eyewitness reports have emerged of many instances of Israeli drones opening fire and killing unarmed civilians, including children and healthcare workers, as well.

The paper added that in the markets of Jabaliya in northern Gaza, Hamas operatives are currently maintaining order and preventing price gouging on food amid shortages.

The Israeli military anticipates similar scenes in Khan Yunis soon and noted that Hamas has also reduced taxes to ease the burden on the population, especially ahead of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan.

In areas where the army has not carried out full-scale ground operations, such as in Rafah and some towns in central Gaza, Hamas continues to exert civilian control, enforcing law and order to ensure civilians can go about their lives as much as possible.

The return of Hamas' civilian control in Khan Yunis comes as the Israeli army is preparing for assaults on Deir al-Balah and Rafah, allegedly to destroy the two remaining brigades of Hamas' military wing, the Qassam Brigades.

Yedioth Ahronoth says the Israeli military leadership has warned soldiers in units set to take part in the attack on Rafah to "prepare for many casualties," especially if hundreds of thousands of residents and displaced persons are unable to leave the war zone.