ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Mossad: Team ordered home from Qatar as talks hit ‘dead end’

IDF carries out ‘extensive’ airstrikes in Khan Younis area amid heavy Gaza fighting

Rocket fire from Gaza continues; IDF says it hit more than 400 terror targets over past day, including mosque used as command cente; IDF asks Gazan civilians to move to safe zones

Residents of the Qatari-funded Hamad Town residential complex in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, carry some of their belongings as they flee their homes after receiving notification from the Israeli army of an imminent strike, on December 2, 2023 (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
Residents of the Qatari-funded Hamad Town residential complex in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, carry some of their belongings as they flee their homes after receiving notification from the Israeli army of an imminent strike, on December 2, 2023 (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces carried out “extensive” strikes against the Hamas terror group in south Gaza Friday overnight and into Saturday, while calling on Palestinians to evacuate from areas near the Israeli border, indicating ground operations in the southern part of the Strip were due to start soon.

In a statement Saturday morning, the IDF said it carried out airstrikes against over 400 targets across the Strip in the past day since fighting resumed. Ground, air and naval forces were all involved in the operations.

The military said fighter jets attacked over 50 targets in the Khan Younis area in “extensive” strikes in the southern part of the enclave.

Meeting reservists near the Gaza border, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the army was striking areas it had not hit before. Gallant said the commanders of Hamas’s battalions in northern Gaza “already know very well what the IDF can do,” while “Hamas battalion commanders in Khan Younis and Rafah [in southern Gaza] also understand very well what happened to the others.”

Troops operating in northern Gaza located dozens of rockets and other weaponry hidden under boxes with UNRWA markings in a residential home, the military said.

Troops on the ground directed airstrikes on several targets, including a mosque that was used by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group as an operational headquarters.

The Navy also carried out strikes on Hamas infrastructure in the south, including on equipment used by the terror group’s naval forces.

This handout picture released by the Israeli army shows troops on the ground in the northern Gaza Strip on December 2, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The military also said several terror cells were eliminated, and that targets hit included an ammunition depot.

The ground troops in northern Gaza were mostly operating in Gaza City and Beit Lahiya.

Israeli believes some of Hamas’s leadership is present in Khan Younis, and plans to expand ground operations there.

The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip said that 240 people had been killed in the enclave since fighting renewed on Friday.

Hamas says the Israeli military campaign has killed more than 15,000 people, mostly civilians. These numbers have not been independently verified and are believed to include Palestinian civilians killed by errant rockets launched by terror groups as well as Palestinian terrorists killed by Israel.

The fighting came after Hamas violated the temporary truce with Israel on Friday by failing to provide a list of hostages it intended to release by 7 a.m. as stipulated in the agreement that had been in place since last week, and also launched rockets toward Israeli communities prior to that time.

Israel’s Mossad spy agency said Saturday that a negotiating team that had been in Qatar for hostage mediation had been ordered home with talks on extending the truce reaching a “dead end.”

Palestinians look at destruction after strikes In Khan Younis in Gaza Strip on Dec. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)

Gazans reported the IDF had dropped flyers in Khan Younis calling on residents to move south to Rafah, warning that the area is dangerous.

The IDF on Saturday began to use a map splitting the Gaza Strip into hundreds of small zones, to notify Palestinian civilians of active combat zones, including in southern Gaza where ground troops are expected to operate when the IDF expands its offensive. The map is intended to replace an IDF demand for mass evacuations as it did in the northern part of Gaza.

The IDF’s Arabic-language Spokesman, Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, said on X that Palestinians in several zones in northern Gaza’s Jalabiya, Shejaiya and Zeitoun, should evacuate to “known shelters” shelters in the Daraj and Tuffah areas of Gaza City.

He also called on Palestinians in several zones in southern Gaza’s Khirbat Ikhza’a, Abasan, Bani Suheila and Ma’an — near the Israeli border — to head for shelters in Rafah.

The IDF has asked Palestinians to pay attention to their area’s number on the map, and follow its future updates.

Also on Saturday morning, Hamas renewed rocket fire toward Israel after an overnight lull.

There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The Biden administration on Friday blamed the end of the temporary ceasefire in the Gaza Strip on Hamas, as the Palestinian terror group bombarded central and southern Israel with rocket fire and the Israeli military carried out airstrikes in the coastal enclave.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed later Friday that the pause “came to an end because of Hamas,” which “began firing rockets before the pause ended, and… reneged on the commitments it made in terms of releasing certain hostages.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

The White House said the US was continuing to work with Israel, Egypt and Qatar to try and restart the truce.

Hamas expanded the range of fire throughout Friday, launching salvos at towns near the border before targeting the southern coastal city of Ashdod. The military said roughly 50 rockets had been fired at southern Israeli towns from Gaza.

The Gaza-ruling terror group later claimed responsibility for a pair of rocket barrages fired at central Israel, which set off warning sirens in numerous cities. Several Iron Dome interceptions were spotted.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another Iran-backed terror group in Gaza, claimed Friday evening to fire rockets at Jerusalem and other cities in Israel, as southern communities continued to be targeted.

Islamic Jihad made the claim as incoming rocket sirens sounded in the community of Eliav in the Lachish region and the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, both of which are south of Jerusalem.

Israeli Iron Dome air defense system fires to intercept a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, Israel, Dec. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

There were no injuries reported from the rockets, though the IDF said five soldiers were wounded as a result of a mortar strike near the southern community of Nirim Friday morning. Three of the soldiers were listed in moderate condition, while the other two were lightly hurt.

Israel has vowed to topple Hamas after declaring war following the October 7 massacres, in which Palestinian terrorists stormed across the border from Gaza and slaughtered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 240 hostage.

But it has not clarified who it would want to rule the Strip after Hamas is felled, shooting down the prospect of the Palestinian Authority doing so while failing to condemn the October 7 atrocities and encouraging violence toward Israel.

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert warned Saturday that if the Israeli government continues to refuse to tell the world what it envisages for Gaza in “the next stage” after Hamas, it won’t be given time by the US and the international community to complete “this stage” of destroying Hamas.

The bluster and boasting of the current political leadership, “claiming that we have as much time as we need — months, till March, next year — is unfounded,” Olmert tells Channel 12. “We have very limited time.”

What could give Israel “some time and patience from the international community is, first, to make clear that “at end of the military operation, when Hamas is defeated,” Israel will withdraw from Gaza: “We have no option to stay and no interest in doing so.” And second, to present Israel’s “picture” of Gaza post-war, as the US and international community have been repeatedly pressing Israel to do.

Fighting also resumed Friday along the Israel-Lebanon border, with the Hezbollah terror organization renewing its attacks after pausing fire over the past week amid the truce in Gaza.

In northern Israel, several rockets were fired from Lebanon at army posts along the border near Rosh Hanikra and Maragaliot, and also at the city of Kiryat Shmona, as Hezbollah claimed responsibility for targeting IDF positions on the border after halting its attacks during the ceasefire in Gaza.

Two rockets fired at Kiryat Shmona were intercepted by the Iron Dome, said the IDF, adding that it responded with artillery shelling at the source of the fire.

File: An Israeli mobile artillery unit takes position in Upper Galilee in northern Israel near the Lebanon border on November 15, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

There were no reports of injuries or damage as a result of the cross-border attacks.

The IDF said it struck a terror cell in southern Lebanon, close to the northern community of Zar’it, and carried out a strike with a fighter jet, combat helicopter and artillery against a Hezbollah site.

Separately, a Hezbollah cell preparing to carry out an attack near the northern community of Malkia was struck by an aircraft, the IDF added.

Since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7, Lebanon’s southern border with Israel has witnessed deadly exchanges of fire, primarily involving the Israeli army and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, an Iranian proxy, as well as Palestinian terror groups.

Jacob Magid and agencies contributed to this report.

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