Gazan civilians move south via humanitarian corridor

IDF believes it caused significant damage to Hamas tunnels in overnight strikes

Army’s ground op toll reaches 30; military seizes terror group stronghold; strikes kill Hamas special operations head and commander of battalion that sent terrorists on Oct. 7

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

A handout photo shows IDF soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip, in pictures distributed on November 6, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
A handout photo shows IDF soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip, in pictures distributed on November 6, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces said Monday that it believes heavy overnight strikes in the northern Gaza Strip caused significant damage to underground and aboveground infrastructure belonging to Hamas, as the military announced that a soldier had been killed in fighting a day earlier.

The military said Sunday it was carrying out “widespread strikes on terror infrastructure, below ground and above it,” which are now believed to have killed Hamas field commanders hiding in tunnels.

Hamas described the strikes as “intense bombings” and said they killed more than 200 people. The numbers released by the Hamas terror group’s health ministry cannot be verified, and it does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

The IDF said Monday that it has killed more than a dozen Hamas field commanders — at the battalion and brigade level — since the beginning of the war, and noted that the loss of those fighters was disrupting the terror group’s operations.

The military also said ground troops had captured a Hamas stronghold overnight that contained observation posts, training grounds and underground tunnels.

It said several Hamas operatives were killed as troops captured the site, and Hamas field commanders were killed in other battles on the ground.

Palestinians look for survivors of the Israeli bombardment in the Maghazi neighborhood in the Gaza Strip on Nov. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Meanwhile, fighter jets struck more than 450 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip over the past day, including tunnels, military compounds, observation posts and anti-tank guided missile launch positions, the military said Monday morning.

One airstrike killed Jamal Musa, the head of Hamas’s special operations.

Another killed Wael Asfeh, the commander of Hamas’s Deir al Balah battalion, along with other commanders of the so-called Central Camps Brigade, who took part in sending terrorists of Hamas’s elite Nukhba forces into Israel during the October 7 onslaught.

Asfeh had been jailed by Israel between 1992 and 1998 for his involvement in a number of attacks against Israeli communities, the IDF said.

In addition to the aerial bombardments, the Navy also carried out strikes against Hamas sites, including command centers, as well as additional anti-tank guided missile launch positions and observation posts.

During the overnight bombardment, Gaza saw a communications blackout — the enclave’s third since the start of the ground operation. However, by Monday afternoon, communications were gradually being restored to the Strip.

The IDF believes the ground offensive will last at least several months to achieve the objective of eliminating Hamas while minimizing casualties to Israeli forces and to Gazan civilians.

On Monday, the military said Staff Sgt. Shahar Cohen Mivtach from Karmiel was killed during fighting in Gaza a day earlier.

Staff Sgt. Shahar Cohen Mivtach

Mivtach, 22, of the 401st Armored Brigade’s 9th Battalion, was killed in battle in northern Gaza.

His death brought the number of soldiers killed since the ground invasion began to 30, and came as Israel’s intensified push deeper into the Strip got underway.

An estimated 800,000 Palestinians have fled to the south from Gaza City and other northern areas following repeated Israeli calls to evacuate, but hundreds of thousands remain in the north, including many who left and later returned, citing dire shortages of shelter and other necessities, and the fact that Israeli airstrikes have also targeted the southern cities of Rafah and Khan Younis at times.

The UN said about 1.5 million people in Gaza, or 70 percent of the population, have fled their homes. Many have sought shelter from airstrikes in schools or hospitals.

After opening a humanitarian corridor for four hours for Palestinians to evacuate from northern Gaza to its south, the military released footage on Monday that showed Gazans moving down Salah a-Din road.

The IDF said it was “continuing its efforts to facilitate the southward movement of civilians in the northern Gaza Strip,” reiterating the Israeli military’s longstanding insistence that civilians move south, where the IDF’s operations are more limited.

The humanitarian corridor was also opened on Sunday for several hours, despite coming under attack by Hamas on Saturday.

Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of attempting to prevent Palestinians from evacuating northern Gaza, including firing on them and bombing evacuation routes, due to its desire to keep civilians around its centers of activity as human shields, or as fodder to help build international pressure for a ceasefire, which has grown as the civilian toll has mounted.

Gaza health authorities, controlled by Hamas, said Monday that more than 10,000 people, including women and children, have been killed in the fighting. The figures issued by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include its own terrorists and gunmen, killed in Israel and in Gaza, and those killed by the hundreds of rockets fired by terror groups that have fallen short inside the Strip.

Smoke billows after a strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6, 2023 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Israel says its offensive in Gaza is aimed at destroying Hamas’s infrastructure, and has vowed to eliminate the entire terror group. It says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, the military said it coordinated with Jordan to airdrop vital medical supplies to a field hospital in the Gaza Strip.

“Overnight, in coordination with the IDF, a Jordanian airplane dropped medical equipment and food to the Jordanian Hospital in the Gaza Strip. The equipment will be used by the medical staff for patients,” the army said in a statement. The operation was also coordinated with the United States.

“This is our duty to aid our brothers and sisters injured in the war on Gaza,” King Abdullah II wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

As Israeli forces pushed deeper into the Gaza Strip and the aerial bombardments increased in intensity, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell suggested Monday that Israel could suspend its military operation in Gaza in return for the International Red Cross getting access to hostages held by Hamas.

“I think that a humanitarian pause counterbalanced by an access to hostages with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as a first step to their release is an initiative on which we should work,” Borrell told European Union diplomats in Brussels.

“Call it a truce, window, whatever, but we need that violence recedes and that international humanitarian law is being respected,” Borrell said.

When some 3,000 terrorists breached the Gaza border on October 7, slaughtering around 1,400 — mainly civilians — as they rampaged through communities in southern Israel, they also took at least 245 hostages to the Strip, including at least 30 babies and children.

The International Red Cross has not been permitted to visit any of the hostages, as is required under international law.

A man holds his baby as he looks at posters of the men, women and children held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, during a vigil marking 30 days since the Oct. 7 Hamas onslaught that started the fighting, in Jerusalem, Nov. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

The EU, United States and Britain have been pushing for “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza to ensure people in the territory get help. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out any truce until all hostages are released.

At the same time as Borrell raised his suggestion, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would increase its humanitarian aid for Gaza by 25 million euros ($27 million).

“By doing so the European Union will spend a total of 100 million euros in humanitarian aid for the civilians in Gaza,” von der Leyen told EU diplomats in Brussels.

Meanwhile, rocket fire toward communities in southern Israel continued on Monday, including toward the city of Ashdod. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

As the war has raged, Hamas and other terror groups have continued to rain rockets on Israel, displacing over 200,000 Israelis and causing widespread damage despite the cover provided by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense shield.

Hundreds of thousands of children in the south and center of the country are not in full-time school due to a lack of bomb shelters in educational institutions.

On Sunday, Israelis marked a month since the Hamas’s brutal October 7 assault.

One of the sites targeted on that day was the Nahal Oz base, where Hamas terrorists killed and captured several members of the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps 414th unit.

The military announced Monday it had reopened its Nahal Oz surveillance control center a day earlier in a temporary location at the Rei’m army camp.

A mural is seen outside an IDF surveillance command center at the Re’im base. The text reads: ‘The flowers will continue to bloom.’ November 5, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The soldiers of the unit are tasked with monitoring surveillance cameras along the Gaza border, and dispatching forces to potential incidents. A number of the surveillance soldiers have said that the brutal Hamas massacre on October 7 was preceded by months of warning signs disregarded as unimportant by intelligence officials.

The new command center allows the surviving soldiers and reservists to again carry out their jobs — monitoring the Nahal Oz area.

“The story of the Nahal Oz command center will forever remembered as a story of heroism and fighting,” said the commander of Unit 414, Lt. Col. Ofir Avram.

Outside the new command center, a mural was painted showing three soldiers in a field of sunflowers, with text reading: “The flowers will continue to bloom.”

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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