Mass evacuations draw international protests

IDF demolishes 6 Gaza City tunnels, including Islamic Jihad’s ‘flagship’ passageway

At least two tunnels neared Israeli border, just across from Nahal Oz; military says 150 gunmen killed in Shejaiya, dozens more in other areas of Gaza City

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

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

Israeli troops operating in Gaza City’s eastern Shejaiya neighborhood have demolished six Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad tunnels amid the latest raid there, launched less than two weeks ago, the Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday.

At least three more tunnels have been located and were in the process of being mapped out and demolished, military sources said.

One of the destroyed tunnels is considered by the IDF to be Islamic Jihad’s “flagship” tunnel in Gaza City.

The recently discovered 2.5-kilometer (1.5-mile) tunnel was used by the terror group for command and control, according to military assessments.

Troops found laptops, weaponry, and intelligence material inside, indicating it was still being used by the terror group recently.

The operation carried out by the 98th Division in Shejaiya, launched on June 27, came after the IDF said it had identified Hamas operatives regrouping in the area, as well as new intelligence on the terror group’s existing infrastructure.

The IDF first operated in Shejaiya during the initial months of the ground offensive against Hamas, announcing that it had dismantled the terror group’s local battalion there in December. It last returned to the Gaza City neighborhood in April, as the military shifted its operations in the Strip to targeted raids against attempts by terror operatives to regroup.

Other tunnels found by the 98th Division in Shejaiya included a significant Hamas tunnel within the heart of the neighborhood and several attack tunnels that were dug toward Israel, at least two of which reached close to Israel’s border barrier — just across from Nahal Oz — according to the IDF.

Those tunnels did not cross into Israel and were not believed to have been used by terrorists during the October 7 onslaught.

In all, at least six kilometers’ worth of tunnels have so far been demolished in the latest operation in Shejaiya.

Military sources said the latest operation in Shejaiya has so far been highly effective, highlighted by the fact that troops managed to locate around nine significant tunnels in just 12 days.

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

The operation in Shejaiya began with a raid against a school complex that according to the IDF had been used by Hamas.

Around 100 gunmen were hiding at the school, among around 1,000 civilians. The terror operatives mostly fled the area as the IDF reached the school, leaving behind weapons and valuable intelligence material, according to the military.

Intelligence obtained by troops in Shejaiya has provided the IDF with insights on Hamas’s attempts to regroup, as well as its infrastructure in the area, the IDF sources said.

More than 150 gunmen have been killed by troops in Shejaiya since the start of the latest raid, according to the military.

Four IDF soldiers have been killed in the operation in Shejaiya.

Palestinians flee following a warning by the Israeli military to evacuate an area of Gaza City on July 7, 2024 (Omar AL-QATTAA / AFP)

On Tuesday the IDF said that dozens of gunmen had been killed by Israeli troops so far in a new operation launched a day earlier in Gaza City.

Amid the raid, carried out by the 99th Division, the military said forces also located weaponry.

The IDF said on Monday that it launched the operation in southern and western neighborhoods of Gaza City after identifying Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad infrastructure and operatives in the area.

In tandem, the army extended its evacuation warning to cover most of Gaza City, eliciting a protest from the United Nations on Tuesday.

Israel has issued three evacuation orders for Gaza City and one for the south of the Palestinian territory since June 27 in a new stepping-up of its military operations. The UN says tens of thousands of civilians have fled.

Gaza City residents have now been told to move to the central district of Deir al-Balah, which the UN Human Rights Office said “is already seriously overcrowded with Palestinians displaced from other areas of the Gaza Strip.”

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)

The UN department said it was “appalled” at new orders to civilians, “many of whom have been forcibly displaced multiple times, to evacuate to areas where IDF military operations are ongoing and where civilians continue to be killed and injured.”

The Palestinian Red Crescent also said Tuesday that due to the evacuation orders, all of its medical clinics were out of service in Gaza City, including the Al-Ahli Arab Anglican Hospital.

The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East protested the closure of Al-Ahli. A statement issued in the name of the Diocese of Jerusalem said the hospital has been “compelled to close by the Israeli army.”

Contacted by Reuters, the IDF said in a statement that it had called on civilians in specific areas of Gaza City to move out, to minimize the risk to them, but that it had told Palestinian health officials and the international community that there was no need to evacuate hospitals in the area.

Fadel Naeem, the director of the Al-Ahli Hospital, said patients fled the facility even though there was no evacuation order for the surrounding area. He said those in critical condition had been evacuated to other hospitals in northern Gaza.

IDF vehicles transport a group of soldiers and journalists inside the southern Gaza Strip, July 3, 2024. (AP Photo/ Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool)

Separately, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, dozens more gunmen were killed over the past day, in close-quarters combat and in airstrikes, the military said.

Across Gaza, the Israeli Air Force struck numerous targets over the past day, including buildings used by terror groups, tunnel shafts, and other infrastructure, according to the IDF.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday killed six people in a house in Gaza City, nine in two houses in central Gaza’s Al-Nuseirat and Deir Al-Balah, and three in Rafah.

An Israeli strike against a group of Palestinians in Al-Bureij camp in central Gaza killed at least seven people, including children, medics told The Associated Press.

An amputee makes his way along a road, past buildings destroyed during Israeli bombardment, at al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on June 24, 2024. (Eyad Baba / AFP)

The war in Gaza broke out on October 7 with Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel, in which thousands of terrorists killed some 1,200 people and took 251 hostages.

In response, Israel launched a ground invasion in Gaza with the declared objectives of dismantling Hamas and getting the hostages back.

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 terrorists. Israel says it has killed more than 15,000 combatants in battle and some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel during the October 7 attack.

Israel’s toll in the ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza and in military operations along the border with the Strip stands at 326.

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: