Troops raid school as part of anti-Hamas op in central Gaza

IDF announces first aid convoy entered northern Gaza through new land crossing

‘Northern Crossing’ opens after army declares ‘next phase’ of humanitarian operations in Strip; leaflets reportedly dropped over Rafah urging Palestinians to help find hostages

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Trucks enter the northern Gaza Strip via a new land crossing, April 11, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Trucks enter the northern Gaza Strip via a new land crossing, April 11, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The military announced Friday that the first convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid to Palestinians was transferred to the northern Gaza Strip via a new land crossing the night before, as Israel works to significantly ramp up the amount of assistance entering the enclave amid heavy United States-led international pressure.

The “Northern Crossing,” located on the northern border of Gaza, was built as a part of a series of steps by the Israel Defense Forces aimed at improving the humanitarian situation in the Strip amid the ongoing war there. It is located near Kibbutz Zikim, defense officials have said.

The IDF said the aid was “thoroughly” inspected by authorities at the Kerem Shalom border crossing on the southern Gaza border before entering via the Strip’s north.

The statement does not specify how many trucks were in the convoy.

At the start of the war, trucks only entered Gaza from Egypt’s Rafah Crossing, with the IDF later opening the Kerem Shalom Crossing from Israel to the south of the Strip. More recently, the IDF has also allowed aid trucks to use a military road in central Gaza and enter via a crossing known as Gate 96.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari Hagari said Thursday the new crossing was expected to handle at least 50 aid trucks per day, and will “enable more aid to flow directly to civilians in the areas that have been challenging for trucks to access.”

The opening of the crossing came a day the military declared the start of its “next phase” of humanitarian operations in Gaza. The White House praised the Israeli moves, saying there was “good progress, but it’s still not enough.”

Earlier Friday, the IDF and Shin Bet said the head of Hamas’s internal security in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya was killed in an airstrike the day before.

In addition to serving as a Hamas police chief in Jabaliya, Radwan Muhammad Abdullah Radwan, according to the IDF and Shin Bet, was an operative in the military wing of the terror group.

“Radwan gave orders to Hamas operatives and was responsible for directing armed terrorists to take control of humanitarian aid trucks in the northern Gaza Strip,” the IDF said in a statement.

It added that his killing “degrades Hamas’s capabilities to attack and take control of humanitarian aid” in the Jabaliya area.

Another strike Thursday killed Hamed Muhammad Ali Ahmed, a commander in the Hamas military wing who was also responsible for internal security in Jabaliya, and another operative in the terror group’s Jabaliya Battalion, the IDF added.

The IDF also said Friday that troops raided a school used by gunmen in the central Gaza Strip, as part of an ongoing pinpoint operation against Hamas and other terror groups on the outskirts of Nuseirat.

At the Martyr Ibrahim al-Maqadma School, just northeast of Nuseirat, the IDF said troops of the Nahal Brigade located and neutralized several heavy primed explosives that were hidden in the classrooms and courtyard.

The IDF said the troops also located an observation post at the school that had been used by the gunmen.

When the troops arrived, the operatives had already fled, according to the IDF, leaving behind some equipment.

Explosives left by gunmen at a school on the outskirts of central Gaza’s Nuseirat, in a handout image published April 12, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Prior to the “targeted operation” announced Thursday, Israeli ground forces had not previously entered Nuseirat, though last month Hamas’s third-in-command, Marwan Issa, was killed in an airstrike in the area.

The operation occurred as Israel appeared to dial back the use of ground troops and shift from a wide-scale offensive to pinpoint operations. This was in line with US demands for changes to the way fighting is taking place amid international concern over the deaths of civilians in the Strip and claims of near-famine conditions.

Israeli officials have said that 18 of Hamas’s 24 original battalions in the Gaza Strip have been dismantled, meaning they do not function as an organized military unit, although smaller cells still exist. Four Hamas battalions remain virtually untouched in southern Gaza’s Rafah, and another two are in the central part of the Strip, according to Israeli assessments.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said he approved the military’s plans for an operation in Rafah, although he has not given the green light to carry them out.

The planned Rafah offensive has caused intense consternation in the international community, including in the US and Egypt, due to the southern Gaza City now hosting more than a million Palestinians displaced from elsewhere in the Strip. Israel has said it is making plans to evacuate and protect civilians from Rafah as part of its offensive plans.

On Friday, the IDF reportedly dropped leaflets in Rafah’s Tel Sultan neighborhood, urging Palestinians seeking refuge there to help locate hostages held by Hamas.

“If you want to protect your families and guarantee your future, do not hesitate to provide us with information about the hostages or those holding them,” read the flyers, which show the names and photos of 35 hostages.

The leaflets included a phone number that can be contacted via the Telegram, WhatsApp and Signal messaging apps. There was also a link to a website that displays similar information.

The IDF has made use of leaflets to encourage Gazans to share information on hostages’ whereabouts throughout the war, as well as on the location of Hamas leaders, placing sizable bounties on the enclave’s arch-terrorists.

A leaflet dropped by the IDF over Rafah on April 12, 2024. (Courtesy)

It is believed that 129 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza. Hamas has also been holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The ongoing war erupted when thousands of Hamas terrorists poured across the border with Israel in a mass assault on October 7 during which they killed almost 1,200 people and abducted 253.

Israel responded with a military offensive to destroy Hamas and free the hostages, half of whom remain in captivity in Gaza.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 33,000 people have been killed in the fighting, an unverified figure that includes some 13,000 Hamas gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. The IDF says it killed 1,000 Hamas and other terrorists inside Israel on and immediately after October 7.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: