IDF launches new operation in Gaza City, troops raid UNRWA compound used by Hamas

Residents say fighting in area is some of the heaviest since war’s start; IDF says it killed dozen of terror operatives in past day during combat in Shejaiya and Rafah

Israeli troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on July 8, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on July 8, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces launched a new operation early Monday morning in southern neighborhoods of Gaza City, following what it said was intelligence of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad infrastructure and terror operatives in the area.

Palestinian media outlets reported that Israeli ground forces advanced into Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa neighborhood, following a large wave of airstrikes. Tel al-Hawa is located in the south of Gaza City, close to the Netzarim Corridor, where the military maintains a semi-permanent presence.

The corridor, built around a road south of Gaza City, enables the IDF to carry out raids in northern and central Gaza while allowing it to control access to the north for Palestinians seeking to return after fleeing south. It also enables Israel to coordinate deliveries of humanitarian aid directly to northern Gaza.

On Sunday, the IDF had called on Palestinians to evacuate the Tuffah, Daraj, and Old City neighborhoods of Gaza City and head to shelters on the western side of the town, near the coast. In an updated announcement on Monday, the IDF called on Palestinian civilians in the Sabra, Rimal, Tel al-Hawa, and Daraj neighborhoods to evacuate and head toward the designated “humanitarian zone.”

The army said it was opening up a corridor for Palestinians to leave the area.

The humanitarian zone is located in the al-Mawasi area on the southern Strip’s coast, in the western neighborhoods of Khan Younis, and in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah.

Israeli troops were also still battling Hamas in the Shejaiya neighborhood, located in the east of Gaza City.

In a statement on Monday morning, the military said it was also operating at UNRWA’s headquarters, located near the Rimal neighborhood, where the IDF previously found significant Hamas tunnel infrastructure and killed and captured numerous gunmen.

The IDF said it had intelligence of new Hamas and Islamic Jihad activity and infrastructure in Gaza City, including weapon caches and detention and interrogation rooms used by the terror groups.

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

“The IDF will continue to act in accordance with international law and against the Hamas and PIJ terror organizations, which systematically operate and carry out terrorist activity from inside civilian infrastructure, including UNRWA compounds, which are used by them to plan and carry out terror activity against the State of Israel,” the military said.

Gaza City residents said on Monday morning that they were seeing some of the heaviest fighting since the start of the war amid the new operation, including artillery and tank fire in the area, as well as airstrikes.

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

The Gaza Civil Emergency Service said they believed there were casualties in eastern Gaza areas but emergency teams were unable to reach them because of ongoing offensives in Tel Al-Hawa, Sabra, Daraj, Rimal, and Tuffah suburbs.

The raid in the southern Gaza City neighborhoods was being carried out by troops with the 99th Division.

Meanwhile, in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, troops with the 98th Division killed dozens of Hamas operatives — involved in anti-tank attacks and rocket fire on Israel — including by calling in airstrikes, the IDF said.

In Shejaiya, an officer with the 7th Armored Brigade’s 82nd Battalion was seriously wounded late Sunday, the army said.

The IDF has been operating in Shejaiya for the past week and a half.

Separately, in the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city of Rafah, the IDF said troops with the 162nd Division had killed more than 30 gunmen over the past day, as well as located tunnel shafts and weapons. The offensive in Rafah began in early May.

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

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

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.

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