Four troops seriously wounded as IDF looks to expand northern Gaza, Rafah offensives

Army spokesperson says over 300 gunmen killed in Rafah, Gaza City suburbs, IDF releases footage showing alleged Hamas gunmen at UN facilities in southern Gaza city

IDF troops are seen operating in northern Gaza's Jabaliya, May 14, 2024 (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
IDF troops are seen operating in northern Gaza's Jabaliya, May 14, 2024 (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

Four Israeli soldiers were seriously wounded in separate battles with gunmen across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Israeli authorities said, as the military expanded a renewed offensive in the north of the Strip centered around the Gaza City suburb of Jabaliya.

Three soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade suffered serious injuries during a gun battle in northern Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said, while a fourth, from the Givati Brigad,e was seriously hurt as a result of an explosive device that detonated in Rafah in the far south of Gaza City.

Five other troops were moderately injured in the same battle in northern Gaza, while the Rafah blast left another five soldiers moderately and lightly wounded.

Israeli forces have recently returned to Jabaliya after the IDF identified terror operatives regrouping there. The city, just north of Gaza City, was one of the first targets of an Israeli ground offensive into Gaza which launched in late October as Jerusalem seeks to uproot the Hamas terror group and return hostages held in the Strip.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Tuesday that troops are now operating in areas of Jabaliya that the IDF previously did not reach in the initial ground offensive in northern Gaza. More than 80 gunmen have been killed in the operation that started on Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Israel expanded an evacuation order for Palestinian civilians in the city. IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee instructed civilians in the al-Atatra and Salatin areas to move to shelters west of Gaza City.

More than 150 gunmen have been killed in the nearby Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City since Israeli troops relaunched an offensive there, Hagari said.

Some 80 sites used by terror groups were destroyed as well, he said.

The IDF has had to return to previously conquered places such as Jabaliya and Zeitoun due to indications that the Hamas terror group has reemerged since the main thrust of Israel’s offensive shifted to the south of the Strip.

Some critics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war strategy have blamed the army’s need to double back into northern Gaza on his administration’s inability to determine what will replace Hamas as the civilian authority in Gaza.

“There is no doubt that a governmental alternative to Hamas will create pressure on Hamas, but that is a question for the political echelon,” Hagari said Tuesday in response to a question.

An Israeli airstrike hits a building in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, May 14, 2024 (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

Most attention in Gaza in recent weeks has been focused on the south, where Israel recently launched what it has described as a “precise” operation to uproot Hamas from what is considered its last remaining major stronghold.

Hagari said more than 100 gunmen had been killed there and 10 tunnel systems located since Israel pushed into Rafah last week, Hagari said.

Israel invaded Gaza following the October 7 massacre, during which thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed into southern Israel communities, killing some 1,200 people and taking 252 hostage. Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas to ensure it no longer poses a threat, but is also involved in indirect talks with the group aimed at an extended truce and exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

Visiting troops in eastern Rafah on Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi was told by commanders there that “there are also hostages in the Rafah area. We are determined to do whatever it takes to create the conditions for them to return to us soon,” Hagari said.

Fighting has also persisted in central Gaza, where the IDF said that it struck a Hamas command room based out of a UNRWA school in Nuseirat, resulting in the deaths of more than 15 terror operatives, including 10 Hamas members. Among those killed were terrorists of Hamas’s elite Nukhba force who participated in the October 7 onslaught, Israel said.

Over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, including 82 on Monday and Tuesday, according to unverifiable numbers from Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel says that it has killed some 15,000 combatants.

Two hundred and seventy-three IDF soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border.

The IDF said the strike on the UNRWA school was carried out following “accurate intelligence” provided by the Shin Bet security agency and Military Intelligence Directorate.

“The strike was carefully planned and carried out using precise munitions while avoiding harming civilians as much as possible,” the military said in a statement.

IDF troops are seen operating in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, May 14, 2024 (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

According to the IDF and Shin Bet, the command room was used by Hamas to plan attacks against troops operating in central Gaza in recent weeks.

In drone footage captured over the weekend and released by the IDF on Tuesday, Palestinian gunmen were also seen at a UNRWA logistics center in Rafah, and near United Nations vehicles.

According to the IDF, the gunmen were spotted by troops of the Givati Brigade on Saturday at the UNRWA logistics center in eastern Rafah.

The video showed the gunmen next to UN vehicles and in the logistics compound itself, which the IDF said is used by the UN body to deliver humanitarian aid. One clip was also said by the military to show a gunman opening fire inside the complex.

Following the “unusual event,” the military said representatives of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) “conveyed the findings to senior officials in the international community and called on the UN to investigate the matter urgently.”

COGAT officials also “warned the UN against the presence of terrorists in the area, and the seriousness of the danger that exists in the presence of the terrorists in the logistics center compound with regard to the continued protection of the organization’s facilities.”

Israel has previously accused UNRWA of enabling Hamas to use its facilities in Gaza for terror. It has also provided evidence that several agency employees are members of terror groups and were involved in the October 7 attack.

Following the release of the drone footage, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote on X that UNRWA “is an arm of the terrorist organization Hamas,” and called on the organization’s chief, Philippe Lazzarini, to resign.

The footage was sent out a day after a member of the UN’s security staff was killed and another was wounded in a strike on a UN vehicle en route to the European hospital in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah. On Tuesday, the world body blamed Israel for the death, saying the car had been clearly marked before it was struck by shots fired from a tank.

The IDF previously said the incident would be probed, but claimed that the car had been in an active combat zone and had not updated an Israeli deconfliction line about its route.

50 trucks ‘not nearly enough’

Nearly 450,000 of the roughly one million Palestinians who had been sheltering in Rafah have evacuated in recent days as the IDF has escalated its operations in Gaza’s southernmost city.

The IDF says four of Hamas’s remaining six battalions are located in Rafah, along with the terror group’s leadership and many of the hostages. But it has faced pressure from the US and much of the rest of the international community to not carry out a full-scale offensive in the city.

IDF troops are seen operating in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, May 14, 2024 (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is scheduled to visit Israel later this week and will discuss the situation in Rafah with Netanyahu.

Despite concerns that the IDF will escalate its offensive in the Hamas stronghold, a US official confirmed on Tuesday evening that Jerusalem has given assurances that it will not do so before Sullivan arrives.

The US has ramped up its criticism of Israel’s handling of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza in the days since the IDF seized the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on May 7.

On Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said that just 50 aid trucks had entered Gaza on Sunday, describing the convoy as “not nearly enough.”

Patel reiterated that while Washington backed military pressure on Hamas, it was not the only way to “fully defeat” the terror organization.

Without a political plan for Gaza’s future, the terror group will “keep coming back, and Israel will continue to remain under threat,” Patel said, leading to “this continued cycle of violence.”

Rejecting the notion that Israel is solely responsible for managing the humanitarian crisis unleashed in Gaza by its war with Hamas, Katz, the foreign minister called for Egypt to resume sending humanitarian aid through the Rafah crossing, which Cairo refuses to do in protest of the IDF takeover.

In a statement, Katz said he discussed the matter yesterday with his British and German counterparts and was also scheduled to talk about it later today with Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani.

IDF troops are seen operating in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, May 14, 2024 (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

“The world is placing the responsibility of Israel for the humanitarian issue, but the key to preventing a humanitarian crisis is now in the hands of our Egyptian friends,” he said.

His comments prompted an angry response from Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry who said in a statement that Israel’s seizure of the Rafah crossing and its military operations in the area were the main obstacles to aid entering Gaza.

Meanwhile, the US military is expected to connect one end of a hulking metal dock — the length of five US football fields — to a beach in northern Gaza to allow for more aid to be brought into the enclave.

Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said that humanitarian groups are ready for the first shipments through the US maritime route. “In the coming days, you can expect to see this effort underway. And we are confident that that we will be able to, working with our NGO partners, ensure that aid can be delivered,” he said.

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