Gallant: Captured Hamas operatives say group collapsing; soldier dies after RPG attack

Troops at Shifa hospital find weapons hidden in maternity ward; strike hits Islamic Jihad center at a 2nd hospital

Left: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with troops at an army base, March 31, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry); Right: Sgt. First Class Sivan Weil (Israel Defense Forces)
Left: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with troops at an army base, March 31, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry); Right: Sgt. First Class Sivan Weil (Israel Defense Forces)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Sunday that senior Hamas operatives captured by troops in the Gaza Strip have told interrogators “the group is collapsing from within.”

“In the last week or two, hundreds of terrorists have been captured and what they say about what happened to them tells the whole story. They say that Hamas is collapsing from within, the price they are paying is very heavy,” Gallant said following an assessment at the 98th Division’s headquarters.

“We’re going to eliminate everyone who was involved in the events of October 7, the junior [officials], the senior ones and the very senior ones; those who were inside [Israel] or who gave instructions,” he said, referring to the date of Palestinian terror group Hamas’s massive attack on Israel that started the ongoing war.

He said the Israel Defense Forces will continue fighting until they reach all terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

“In the last few days, we have also seen very great progress, both in [reaching] the terrorists in the field and the more senior commanders, even very senior ones,” Gallant added, referring to the IDF’s operations at Shifa Hospital, where more than 500 members of terror groups have been captured and some 200 have been killed, including several top commanders.

The IDF said Sunday that troops had seized a cache of weapons concealed in the maternity ward of Shifa Hospital, where a raid on the facility to rout out Hamas terrorists at the site was entering its third week.

Weapons captured by troops of the Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance unit at the maternity ward of Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, in a handout image published March 31, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Troops have been raiding buildings at the Shifa complex following intelligence indicating that top officials in the terror group are holed up there.

The Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance unit found weapons, including mortars, explosive devices, sniper rifles, assault rifles, handguns and other military equipment hidden inside patient pillows and beds, and in the dropped ceilings and walls of the building, according to the IDF.

Some 350 patients and medical staff at Shifa Hospital were evacuated by the IDF to a “designated compound” in another part of the complex, where the military has provided them with humanitarian aid and supplies.

The reconnaissance unit also encountered and killed senior Hamas operatives Fadi Dweik and Zakaria Najib during a chase and exchange of fire in the maternity ward last week.

Shifa, the Gaza Strip’s biggest hospital before the war, had been one of the few health care facilities even partially operational in north Gaza before the latest fighting. It had also been housing displaced civilians.

Troops of the Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance unit operate in the area of Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, in a handout image published March 31, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the IDF announced the death of a soldier who succumbed to wounds sustained during fighting against Hamas in the Khan Younis area of the southern Gaza Strip on Friday.

He was named as Sgt. First Class Sivan Weil, 20, of the Commando Brigade’s Egoz unit, from Ra’anana.

His death brought the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 255.

In the Friday incident, a Hamas operative fired an RPG at a building near Nasser Hospital, used by Egoz troops as an encampment, leading to the death of Sgt. First Class Alon Kudriashov and the injury of 16 other Egoz troops.

Weil was among six seriously wounded troops in the incident, succumbing to his wounds earlier Sunday.

Sgt. First Class Sivan Weil (Israel Defense Forces)

Also Sunday, the IDF said it struck a Palestinian Islamic Jihad command center located in the courtyard of al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah.

According to the IDF, Islamic Jihad operatives were in the command room when it was hit.

The IDF said that after a “lengthy procedure,” the command center was struck “in a precise manner to reduce the harm to the uninvolved [civilians] in the area of ​​the hospital.”

The hospital itself was not damaged in the strike, the IDF said.

Video footage from the scene appeared to show a number of wounded individuals.

Palestinians check the damage at a makeshift camp for displaced people in front of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, after it was hit in an Israeli strike on March 31, 2024. (AFP)

Palestinian health officials and Hamas media said the strike hit several tents inside the hospital, killing four people and wounding several, including five journalists.

“The presence of the command room and the terrorists who operated in the hospital yard are further proof of the systematic use of humanitarian and medical infrastructure by the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip as a cover for terrorist activities,” the IDF added in a statement.

International law stipulates that while a medical facility is a protected site in conflict, it loses that status if it is used for military activity. Israel has offered evidence terrorists use such facilities as cover and says Hamas plunders humanitarian aid to take supplies for its fighters, depriving the civilian population.

Last week the IDF released footage of Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives detailing how the terror groups used Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital as a base of operations.

In other operations, the IDF said it carried out airstrikes on several buildings in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood that had been used to fire anti-tank missiles at troops the day before, as well as for sniper fire. At least one terror operative was killed in the strikes, the IDF said.

In central Gaza, the Nahal Brigade killed at least 15 gunmen over the past day, including with sniper fire and by calling in airstrikes.

Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated image released by the military for publication on March 31, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

Fighting also continued in the southern Gaza Strip.

The IDF said troops of the 7th Armored Brigade and Israeli Air Force killed several gunmen in the Khan Younis area, and combat engineers destroyed sites belonging to terror groups.

The Commando Brigade has been operating in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis, where the troops killed several more operatives over the past day, the IDF said.

In another operation in the Khan Younis area, the IDF says the Givati Brigade killed 15 terror operatives with sniper fire and tank shelling. The troops also seized weapons.

Over the past day, the Israel Air Force also struck some 80 targets across the Gaza Strip, including buildings and infrastructure used by terror groups, according to the military.

War erupted on October 7 when Hamas led a devastating cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The thousands of attackers who burst through the boundary also abducted 253 people of all ages.

Israel responded with a military campaign to destroy Hamas and free the hostages, of whom 130 remain in captivity.

Palestinians carry a wounded person following an Israeli airstrike near the Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, March 31, 2024. (Abdel Kareem Hana/AP)

At least 32,782 Palestinians have been killed and 75,298 have been wounded in Gaza since October 7, the Hamas-run health ministry in the enclave says. The toll includes at least 75 people who it says were killed overnight. The Hamas-run ministry’s figures, which are unverified, do not differentiate between fighters and civilians, and are also believed to include Palestinians killed by terrorists’ misfired rockets. Israel says some 13,000 terror operatives are among the dead.

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