March 13, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

IDF Gaza division commander fighting in Gaza tells politicians: Be worthy of us

Brig.-Gen. Dan Goldfus praised the role of reservists in this war and said Israel owes them an immense debt for the sacrifices they have made.
March 13, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

IDF Gaza division commander fighting in Gaza tells politicians: Be worthy of us

Brig.-Gen. Dan Goldfus praised the role of reservists in this war and said Israel owes them an immense debt for the sacrifices they have made.

Brig.-Gen. Dan Goldfus, commander of the IDF’s 98th Division, held a rare press conference on the Gaza border, where he addressed Israeli politicians on Wednesday and said, “We accomplish many achievements on the battlefield. But you must be worthy of us; you must be worthy of those soldiers who sacrificed their lives.”

“I would like to appeal to our leaders from all sides. I hope they can find time to listen to the heart of a fighter who has been fighting since October 7, and since then I have not stopped fighting and sending soldiers towards the line of fire.”

Soon after the broadcast, the military said that Goldfus’s speech was not approved and that he would be brought in for clarification.

Goldfus didn’t specify what he was referring to, but operations in Gaza have loosened somewhat in their intensity over the last few weeks, with the army recalling a significant number of reservists.

On an international level, Israel has been bombarded with criticism over the high casualty rate in the enclave, which some claim is the result of fighting in an extremely complex urban warfare battlefield.

Goldfus’s comments drew wide support from the political Right, which, in its rhetoric, pushed for a more aggressive approach in Gaza. Interior Minister Moshe Arbel said that he “embraces and holds dear every word Goldfus said.

“We must remove all the factors of division, eliminate the divisive partitions, and banish gratuitous hatred from each other. We will respect each other, and only together will we win,” he continued.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich responded by saying, “Goldfus is a brave soldier and the type of commander that the IDF needs today more than ever. As he went forward fighting in Khan Yunis, he expressed the true feeling of the soldiers in the field who demanded from us to be worthy of their bravery, sacrifice, and togetherness. His words that come from his heart must enter the hearts of all of us.”

Economy Minister Nir Barkat also praised Goldfus for his “precise” comments. “Even if Goldfus didn’t handle himself in the best manner, his comments were precise, and I love him.”

Goldfus has led the 98th through tough fighting in Khan Yunis, the southern Gazan city, and the hometown of Yahya Sinwar. There, the IDF uncovered tunnels and terrorist infrastructure, which enabled other operations around Khan Yunis, clearing out the border area of terrorists where the October 7 Hamas attackers had emerged from during that dark day five months ago.

Goldfus is renowned for his efforts at eliminating the underground infrastructure of Hamas and using commandos from his division to defeat the enemy. This has been a different kind of battle in Khan Yunis than in northern Gaza, which was more precise.

The unit has also been fighting in the Hamad neighborhood in Khan Yunis over the past few weeks. This upscale area is entirely composed of similarly designed multi-floor buildings. It was a project linked to investment from Doha, Qatar, and hundreds of terrorists have been found in the area.

The commandos have been going through the high-rise buildings. They eliminated 100 terrorists over the course of the operation. This matters because it shows these terrorists were lurking in this bucolic neighborhood that looks like a leafy suburb of any normal city in the region, except it is in Gaza.

In fact, the neighborhood was supposed to showcase what Gaza could be like in the future. However, as is often the case in Gaza, Hamas burrowed in and exploited these areas that were supposed to be for civilians.

Precision airstrikes used in Hamad

Precision airstrikes have been used in Hamad. Maglan, Egoz and Givati fighters have been operating in the area. These are the unique forces that the 98th has been working with to bring the fight to the enemy. This is significant because the 98th’s ability to combine various special units is important and shows a model of fighting in Gaza that may be relevant for the future. This is equivalent to using special forces in a Western-modeled military or specialized infantry unit.

Goldfus has a beard, a rarity among many of the officers at similar ranks in Gaza. As such, he cuts a unique figure in this war, and the units under his command have been fighting since October 7. Khan Yunis has been their big task.

Speaking to the press on Wednesday as tanks churned up dust in the background, he said the unit neutralized 3,500 terrorists and detained 1,500. In addition, they destroyed the Khan Yunis brigade, which is considered to have been 70% defeated. This means that the Khan Yunis brigade shouldn’t be able to function for much longer, since units that take 70% casualties are usually considered to be incapacitated.

Israel has defeated around 18 out of the 24 Hamas brigades in Gaza. What remains of Hamas is now holding out in Rafah and the central camps’ region.

The tip of the spear in southern Gaza

The 98th has been the tip of the spear in southern Gaza. For 100 days, it has been logged through tunnels and has removed Hamas threats. Goldfus discussed how they had uncovered terrorist infrastructure, which the enemy invested heavily in. He praised the close work with ground, air, and navy forces. He described the complex battlefield and the civilians who have been evacuated, as well as how Hamas hid in hospitals in Khan Yunis. Hamas exploited Nasser and Amal hospitals.

The commander, reading from a prepared statement, praised Israel as a democratic society and discussed how his units have sought to reach every place below ground. Dozens of kilometers of terror tunnels have been found in Khan Yunis. He mentioned the operations in Hamad as well, discussing the role of the 7th Armored, the 84th Givati Brigade, and the 828th Bislamach Brigade. He praised the role of reservists in this war and said Israel owes them an immense debt for the sacrifices they have made. “We couldn’t have done this without them,” he stressed.

Now, the 98th and other units will prepare for the next phase. That could come in Rafah, in the central camps, or in other areas. The commander also emphasized the importance of returning hostages and protecting Israel from threats. He also said Israel cannot return to the way things were on October 6. The message from the 98th is that Israel must gird itself for a long war, but it must not let fear or worry bring dark clouds over the coming fight. The enemy is being defeated. Using precision fire and the unique capabilities of the 98th has brought victory to Khan Yunis. 

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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