ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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IDF kills senior Hamas official in Rafah; security chiefs visit Khan Younis

Arab world pushes Israel not to invade Gazan city on Egyptian border as airstrikes kill three of terror group’s operatives

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi (right) and Shin Bet director Ronen Bar (center) visit southern Gaza's Khan Younis, February 10, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi (right) and Shin Bet director Ronen Bar (center) visit southern Gaza's Khan Younis, February 10, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet said an airstrike was carried out on Saturday in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, killing a senior Hamas police official along with two other operatives.

The main target of the strike was Ahmed Al-Yaaqoubi, who the IDF and Shin Bet said was responsible for security arrangements of senior Hamas officials and served as a senior officer in the Rafah district’s secret police department.

Iman Rantisi, a Hamas military operative and senior official in the terror group’s general security investigations department, was also killed, as was another officer in the Rafah district’s secret police department.

Footage released by the IDF showed the airstrike on the car in Rafah.

The airstrikes in Rafah come as the IDF prepares for a ground invasion of the city, where more than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering. The looming invasion of Rafah, which is adjacent to the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, has left Egypt wary of the possibility that Gazans will be pushed into the country as they flee from the war.

Egypt warned Israel once again on Saturday that any mass displacement of Palestinians into its territory would put the Israeli-Egyptian decades-long peace agreement and close security ties at risk.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that when Israel informed Egypt of its expansion of the ground operation into Rafah, Egyptian officials warned that the move could lead to the suspension of the countries’ peace treaty.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan all issued statements on Saturday calling on Israel not to expand its ground operation to Rafah.

Meanwhile, the IDF was continuing its offensive in the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Shin Bet director Ronen Bar visited the city on Saturday, with the former saying the fighting against Hamas in the area was far from over.

IDF soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip in a photo provided by the IDF, Feb. 10, 2024. (IDF Spokesperson)

“The fighting in Khan Younis — we have not yet finished it, we are far from finishing it, we are summing it up so far as a great success,” Halevi told troops.

Bar said that the IDF’s actions to dismantle Hamas’s intelligence and communications capabilities were “impossible for [Hamas] to recover from.”

The IDF announced Saturday that it had made a significant intelligence achievement by finding a Hamas data center under the Gaza headquarters of UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees. The subterranean data center was used by Hamas for intel and communications.

The terror group likely built the server farm, complete with an electrical room and living quarters for the Hamas IT staff, directly below the UN agency’s complex and a nearby UNRWA school in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood in order to ensure Israel would never strike it.

An electrical room serving an underground Hamas data center, beneath the UNRWA headquarters, uncovered by the IDF in Gaza City, February 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

Following the IDF’s announcement, UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini denied that the organization had any knowledge of the database.

UNRWA, he said, “is a human development and humanitarian organization that does not have the military and security expertise nor the capacity to undertake military inspections of what is or might be under its premises.”

UNWRA has come under increased scrutiny and calls for its disbanding have grown following findings by Israel last month that accused 12 staff members of taking part in the October 7 massacre by Hamas-led terrorists who killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages.

Following the attack, Israel launched a war on Hamas. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said Saturday that the Palestinian death toll in the Strip since the start of the war has reached 28,064. These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 10,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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