IDF major killed in Rafah; military orders fresh evacuations as fighting continues

Slain officer named as Maj. Jalaa Ibrahem; brigade commander moderately hurt in separate Rafah battle; Hamas civil defense agency says deputy labor minister killed in strike

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

Maj. Jalaa Ibrahem (IDF)
Maj. Jalaa Ibrahem (IDF)

The military announced Sunday that an Israel Defense Force officer was killed during fighting in southern Gaza’s Rafah as the country marked nine months since the October 7 massacre.

The loss of Maj. Jalaa Ibrahem, 25, a company commander in the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion, from the Druze town of Sajur, came during intense fighting  even as Israeli officials signaled that the military operation in the Strip’s southernmost city was drawing to a close, with Hamas’s formal military structure was close to being dismantled.

Ibrahem’s death brought Israel’s toll in the ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza and in military operations along the border with the Strip to 326.

Also on Sunday, the commander of the 401st Armored Brigade’s 52nd Battalion, Lt. Col. Daniel Ella, was moderately wounded during fighting in the Tel Sultan neighborhood of Rafah, amid a clash with gunmen, the military said.

He was taken to a hospital in Israel and his family was notified, the army added.

Meanwhile, during an ongoing operation in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, the Israeli military called on Palestinians in several other neighboring areas to evacuate and head toward shelters in the western part of the city, near the coast.

The zones included the Tuffah, Daraj, and Old City neighborhoods of Gaza City, according to a list published by Col. Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman.

Gaza civil defense says deputy head of Hamas ministry killed

The IDF said Sunday fighter jets struck a compound within a school in Gaza City where terror group operatives were gathered. A separate site in the school used by Hamas to manufacture weapons was also hit, it added.

Before carrying out the strike, the IDF said it carried out “many steps” to mitigate harm to civilians, including using aerial surveillance and other intelligence.

“The Hamas terror organization systematically violates international law, systematically exploiting civilian buildings and the civilian population as human shields for terror activity against the State of Israel,” the military added.

Hamas’s civil defense agency said that the deputy head of the Hamas-run labor ministry, Ihab al-Ghussein, was killed in the strike. The military did not confirm Ghussein’s death in its statement.

In Shejaiya, the IDF said troops with the 98th Division killed several gunmen, destroyed sites used by terror groups, and located weapons over the past day.

The IDF also said it killed a terrorist who launched a rocket from the neighborhood at the Israeli border town of Nahal Oz on Saturday. The strike was carried out a short while after the rocket attack.

Additionally, the IDF released footage of soldiers of the Paratroopers Brigade’s reconnaissance unit battling Hamas gunmen in the area.

Bodycam footage showed paratroopers engaged in a close-quarters battle with several gunmen.

Another clip from a drone showed the paratroopers identifying several more gunmen.

The IDF said that, in all, seven gunmen were killed by the paratroopers and by tank shelling in the incident.

In the southern Gaza Strip, the Khan Younis municipality building was hit by a drone strike overnight, with the military saying the site was used by Hamas operatives.

According to the IDF, within the municipality building, there was a tunnel shaft that connected to Hamas’s underground network in Khan Younis. It also said the building was used by Hamas operatives as a staging ground.

Before carrying out the strike, the IDF said it took “several steps” to mitigate harm to civilians, including evacuating Palestinians from the area.

Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released for publication on July 7, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

In southern Gaza’s Rafah, the IDF said troops with the 162nd Division killed more than 30 gunmen in close-quarters combat and by calling in airstrikes in the past day.

Another airstrike in Rafah targeted a primed rocket launcher, the military added.

Health officials in the Hamas-run enclave there said they had recovered three bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in the eastern part of the city.

An Israeli airstrike on a house in the town of Zawayda, in central Gaza, killed at least six people and wounded several others, while six others were killed in an air strike on a house in western Gaza, the health officials said. The figures could not be verified.

The war in Gaza was sparked on October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and take 251 hostages.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says more than 38,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far. The toll, which cannot be verified, does not distinguish 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.

As of Sunday, there was cautious optimism that Israel and Hamas were approaching a truce. The terror group said on Saturday that it had dropped a demand — long rejected by Jerusalem — that Israel commit to a permanent ceasefire before the two parties commence a deal, mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, that would see a pause in the fighting and the release of hostages held in Gaza.

At the same time, Hamas indicated it was seeking guarantees from mediators that the war would not be renewed.

Negotiations have failed to secure a truce and release of captives since a weeklong ceasefire in November that saw 105 hostages freed in return for 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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