Central Gaza strike kills October 7 perpetrator

IDF finds rockets in Rafah graveyard as troops push deeper into south Gaza city

Airstrikes take out Hamas terrorists, weapons depots in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya; new pinpoint raid launched in Beit Hanoun to root out remaining operatives

Troops of the Givati Brigade operate in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in a handout image published May 23, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the Givati Brigade operate in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in a handout image published May 23, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli troops located missiles and rocket launchers belonging to the Hamas terror group in a Rafah graveyard, the military said Thursday, as soldiers deepened their assault in the Strip’s southernmost city.

Soldiers have killed several Palestinian gunmen in close-quarters combat and airstrikes across Gaza took out a number of terror group operatives, including one who was among the approximately 3,000 to storm into southern Israel on October 7, the Israel Defense Forces also said in a statement.

Troops of the Givati Brigade operating in the eastern part of the city found the projectiles at the grave site, as well as a number of “significant underground” sites used by terror operatives. The statement did not provide further details on the tunnels.

In the same area this week, the IDF said the Givati troops killed several gunmen who emerged from a tunnel shaft and opened fire. A short while later, another four operatives came out of a nearby building and the soldiers directed a drone strike against them and the structure, the army said.

The IDF said soldiers are also advancing through Rafah’s Brazil and Shaboura neighborhoods, following “information on terror targets in the area.”

Operations in the southern Gaza city are being carried out in a “precise manner… while preventing harm to the civilian population as much as possible, after the civilians have evacuated the area,” the IDF said.

An aerial photo graphic released by the IDF on May 23, 2024 showing a Rafah graveyard where it says missiles and rocket launchers belonging to Hamas were found (in white) and nearby areas where Hamas gunmen were killed and weapons found (in red). (Israel Defense Forces)

In the past day, troops located rocket launchers, and several tunnel shafts in the area, the army said.

An airstrike was carried out against a cell of three mortar-launching operatives in the Rafah area, killing them, it added.

The IDF’s assault on Hamas in Rafah has set some 950,000 people fleeing what had been a refuge for around half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people.

Some 300,000 to 400,000 civilians remain in Rafah, mostly in the coastal area and some parts of the center of the city, according to information seen by The Times of Israel on Monday.

The IDF has asserted that Rafah is Hamas’s last major stronghold in Gaza, and where four of its battalions are located: Yabna (South), Shaboura (North), Tel Sultan (West), and East Rafah. Two more Hamas battalions remain in central Gaza, in the Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah camps.

Israel believes Hamas leaders and many operatives are hiding in Rafah, and also that an unspecified number of the remaining 124 hostages kidnapped in the Hamas-led October 7 atrocities are being held in the city. Israel says it has no choice but to attack the city to root out the Hamas battalions there.

The military has been slowly moving into the eastern outskirts of Rafah since the start of the month, as Palestinians have evacuated to the al-Mawasi area, designated by the IDF as a “humanitarian zone,” on the Strip’s coast, and to central Gaza.

A Palestinian man and his children sit in a destroyed room of a building heavily damaged, apparently by an Israeli airstrike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 22, 2024 (Eyad AL-BABA / AFP)

Residents told Reuters Thursday that Israeli tanks advanced in Rafah’s southeast, edged toward Yabna, and continued to operate in three eastern suburbs.

“The occupation (Israeli forces) is trying to move further to the west. They are on the edge of Yabna, which is densely populated. They didn’t invade it yet,” one resident said, asking not to be named.

“We hear explosions and we see black smoke coming up from the areas where the army has invaded. It was another very difficult night,” he told Reuters via a chat app.

In northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, airstrikes on buildings used by Hamas killed several terror operatives and destroyed weapons depots, the IDF stated.

The fighting in Jabaliya has been described by the IDF as “intense,” and by some officers as the “most violent” battles amid the war.

Troops operating in Jabaliya also found a large number of weapons, the military added.

On May 12, the IDF pushed into Jabaliya for the third time, in a surprise operation aimed at dismantling Hamas cells that had regrouped there after the military withdrew months ago.

The bodies of four hostages killed by Hamas terrorists on October 7 were recently recovered from a tunnel in Jabaliya. A paratrooper officer was killed during fighting above ground in the area of the operation.

Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip in an undated picture published on May 23, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF said several airstrikes were also carried out in the central Gaza area over the past day, including one that killed the head of a terror cell in a hideout apartment and another that killed two terror operatives who had opened fire at troops in the area.

A separate strike in central Gaza killed a terrorist who had infiltrated into Israel on October 7, the army said.

Forces are continuing to hold the Netzarim Corridor in central Gaza and operating in the area.

In Beit Hanoun, the Kfir Brigade’s Netzah Yehuda Battalion and other forces under the Gaza Division’s Northern Brigade began a new pinpoint raid, the military said.

Three soldiers were killed Wednesday in two separate incidents in the area.

The IDF has carried out several operations in Beit Hanoun since it was first captured in the initial ground offensive last year.

In the ongoing raid, the military said troops are working to kill remaining gunmen and locate tunnels among other infrastructure used by terror groups.

The Air Force has struck numerous targets in Beit Hanoun in recent days, including anti-tank launch positions, sniper positions, and other buildings used by Hamas.

The military released footage showing the identification of a gunman opening fire at troops from a building. It said tanks shelled the building and a drone also carried out a strike, killing the gunman. Moments later, another operative began opening fire from the same location, and a short while later a fighter jet took out the building, the IDF said.

According to Gaza’s civil defense agency, two predawn Israeli airstrikes on Thursday killed 26 people in Gaza City.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military, while AFP was unable to independently verify the details of the two reported strikes.

Civil Defense Agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal told AFP that one strike hit a family’s house, killing 16 people, while 10 others died when a mosque was struck in the second strike.

Bassal said the dead included at least 15 children, 10 of whom who were killed when their family’s house was hit in the Al-Daraj neighborhood of Gaza City.

Five children died when their school inside a mosque complex was hit, he said, adding that rescue teams had pulled out several wounded from the strikes.

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists kill close to 1,200 people in southern Israel and seize 252 hostages.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The tolls, which cannot be verified, include some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle.

Two hundred and eighty-six soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

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