IDF calls on all Palestinians in Gaza City to evacuate

IDF commando killed in fresh Gaza City op; Gallant: 60% of Hamas terrorists killed

Sgt. First Class Tal Lahat, 21, was among those who rescued Nahal Oz residents on Oct. 7; troops raid UNRWA HQ as military says dozens of gunmen killed in Shejaiya

Sgt. First Class Tal Lahat, of the IDF's Maglan commando unit, who was killed during fighting in central Gaza on July 9, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Sgt. First Class Tal Lahat, of the IDF's Maglan commando unit, who was killed during fighting in central Gaza on July 9, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

An Israeli soldier was killed during fighting in Gaza City, the military announced Wednesday morning, raising Israel’s toll in the ground offensive against terror group Hamas and military operations along the border with the Strip to 327.

Sgt. First Class Tal Lahat, 21, of the Maglan commando unit, was killed on Tuesday afternoon, in a Hamas-claimed sniper attack in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City.

Separately on Wednesday, two reservists with the Alexandroni Brigade were seriously wounded during fighting in Gaza City. According to an initial military probe, the pair were hit by an explosive device.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, meanwhile, told the Knesset on Wednesday that 60 percent of Hamas terror operatives have been killed after nine months of war in the Gaza Strip, adding that the military has eliminated most of the terror group’s 24 battalions.

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday morning dropped leaflets calling on “everyone in Gaza City” to evacuate and head south toward shelters in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah, amid a new operation there.

The flyer provided instructions on safe routes to evacuate Gaza City, via the Salah a-Din road or the coastal road.

“Gaza City will be a dangerous combat zone,” the leaflets warned.

The IDF in recent days had issued evacuation warnings for several areas in Gaza City as troops carried out operations in its western and southern neighborhoods, as well as in the eastern Shejaiya neighborhood.

The latest warning covered all of Gaza City.

Some 200,000 Palestinians remain in northern Gaza, according to recent IDF estimates.

The IDF in a morning update said troops, including Maglan, had raided UNRWA’s headquarters in Gaza City — located near the Rimal and Tel al-Hawa neighborhoods — which the military said had been used by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to carry out attacks against troops.

The raid was carried out by the Commando Brigade and elite Multi-Domain Unit, which had on Tuesday joined the IDF’s 99th Division in a new operation in southern and western areas of Gaza City.

The IDF said it first opened a humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave the UNRWA facility area.

During the raid against the UN site, troops killed and detained several gunmen and located a large amount of weapons, according to the IDF.

UNRWA’s headquarters in Gaza City, February 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

On Monday, the Israeli military launched the new operation in Gaza City. It said at the time that it was operating in the area of the UNRWA headquarters, where the IDF previously found significant Hamas tunnel infrastructure and killed and captured numerous gunmen.

The IDF was pursuing Palestinian terror operatives in Gaza City, six months after it said it had dismantled Hamas’s “military framework” in the territory’s north.

Large parts of Gaza City and urban areas around it have been flattened or left a shattered landscape after nine months of fighting. Much of the population fled earlier in the war, but around 200,000 Palestinians remain in the north, according to IDF assessments.

“The fighting has been intense,” said Hakeem Abdel-Bar, who fled Gaza City’s Tuffah district to the home of relatives in another part of the city. He claimed Israeli warplanes and drones were “striking anything moving” and that tanks had moved into central districts.

Hamas’s military wing on Tuesday, described the latest fighting in Gaza City as “the most intense in months.”

The UN said tens of thousands of civilians have been affected by the surge in fighting since the first of three evacuation orders for Gaza City was declared on June 27.

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, UNRWA, said that “we have around 350,000 people again on the road,” but “basically, there is absolutely no safe space in Gaza.”

A boy drives a donkey-drawn cart transporting family members and belongings as they try to return to their home in the Tuffah district, east of Gaza City, July 8, 2024. (Omar Al-Qattaa/AFP)

Visiting troops in Gaza City on Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said Israel was applying military pressure on Hamas in different ways across the Gaza Strip, and that it was not “treading water.”

“We are applying military pressure in various forms. What is being done in Rafah is different from what you are doing here,” he said to officers of the 99th Division.

“What you are doing here is different from what is happening right now in Shejaiya, or the mission of the [Netzarim] corridor or the security area along the border,” Halevi said.

“The common denominator between the different places… is determination. There is no treading water or being at a standstill. You are bringing about important achievements daily,” Halevi told the officers.

“We are planning ahead… looking for opportunities [to target] senior officials, infrastructure, and operatives, and we do it with all kinds of methods,” he added.

Came to the rescue at Nahal Oz

The slain soldier, Lahat, from Kfar Saba, was to be laid to rest on Wednesday evening.

Haaretz journalist Amir Tibon identified Lahat as one of a group of soldiers who came to Kibbutz Nahal Oz to save residents from terrorists who had overrun the border community on October 7.

“His team arrived in my neighborhood and took us out of the secure rooms after long hours of being in mortal danger, and stayed with us until the organized evacuation of the community at night,” Tibon wrote in a post on social media platform X.

The destruction caused by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the Israel-Gaza border, in southern Israel, October 20, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On October 7, Palestinian terror group Hamas led a massive cross-border assault on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, amid numerous atrocities. The 3,000 terrorists who burst into the south of the country also abducted 251 people of all ages who were taken as hostages to Gaza.

From the early morning, gunmen rampaged murderously through southern Israel areas, overrunning towns, communities and military posts while slaughtering those they found. Terrorists invaded Nahal Oz and an adjacent military base, killing over 60 soldiers and 12 residents of the kibbutz. During the battle to retake control of the kibbutz, in which Lahat participated, three Maglan soldiers were killed. Tibon and his family, who took refuge in the home’s secure room, were saved by the soldiers and by others who included his own father, retired army general Noam Tibon, who had rushed to the kibbutz to rescue his son.

IDF troops operate in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, in a handout image published July 9, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Ongoing Gaza operations

Also in the past day, the IDF said troops with the 98th Division killed dozens of gunmen in Gaza City’s eastern Shejaiya neighborhood, amid a separate operation there.

A tunnel was also demolished in Shejaiya, the military said. On Tuesday, the IDF announced it had demolished at least six tunnels in Shejaiya, and that several more were being investigated.

The IDF has been operating in Shejaiya for the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, operations also continued in southern Gaza’s Rafah, where the IDF said troops with the 162nd Division killed several terror operatives, located weapons, and destroyed tunnels in the past day. The offensive in Rafah began in early May.

Separately, several drone strikes were carried out against Hamas operatives in the central Gaza Strip, who according to the IDF were involved in digging tunnels and launching missiles at troops in Gaza.

An Israeli army vehicle rolls in an area near Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip on July 9, 2024. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Israel responded to the Hamas October 7 attack with a military offensive to destroy the terror group, topple its Gaza regime, and free the 120 remaining hostages in Gaza.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 38,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though the toll cannot be verified and does not differentiate between civilians and fighters. Israel says it has killed some 15,000 combatants in battle and some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel during the October 7 attack.

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