IDF presses on with new Gaza City operation, 20 Hamas fighters killed in past day

Intensive fighting continues in south Gaza’s Khan Younis, amid looming Rafah invasion and increased overseas calls for ceasefire

IDF soldiers patrolling in the Gaza Strip in a photo released by the military, Feb. 22, 2024. (IDF Spokesperson)
IDF soldiers patrolling in the Gaza Strip in a photo released by the military, Feb. 22, 2024. (IDF Spokesperson)

The Israel Defense Forces’ large-scale operation in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood is continuing, the military announced Thursday, saying troops have been raiding Hamas sites and killing Hamas operatives.

According to the IDF, the 215th Artillery Regiment directed airstrikes against some 10 Hamas sites in Zeitoun, located in the northern part of the Strip, while the 401st Armored Brigade killed some 20 operatives in the area and destroyed numerous Hamas sites. Meanwhile, in central Gaza, the Nahal Brigade located and destroyed a rocket launcher.

The operation in Zeitoun comes after the IDF said it had largely defeated Hamas’s fighting force in northern Gaza, withdrew its forces, and began to focus on smaller raids in designated areas.

In southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, the 7th Armored Brigade killed more than 15 Hamas operatives; the Givati Brigade ambushed a Hamas cell with sniper fire; and the Commando Brigade located a cache of weapons and documents, according to the military.

Also in southern Gaza, the Navy carried out strikes against vessels belonging to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the IDF added.

As the IDF prepares for a possible incursion into Rafah, Palestinian media outlets reported Thursday that at least three people were killed by overnight Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city.

The strikes were primarily conducted in the neighborhoods of Al-Shaboura and El-Geneina, according to the reports.

Palestinian women and children look on as they stand at the structure of a heavily damaged building on Feb. 22, 2024, following overnight Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Across the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run health ministry said that 99 people had been killed around Gaza during the night.

The Hamas-run health ministry also updated its tally of casualties since the beginning of the war, claiming that a total of 29,410 Palestinians have been killed and 69,465 have been injured in Gaza since October 7.

These figures also cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between civilians and Hamas terrorists, or those killed by Hamas’s own rockets that exploded in the Strip.

The IDF says it has killed some 12,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

The war broke out on October 7 when Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 253 while committing widespread atrocities.

As the tally of civilian casualties in Gaza has risen, so have calls from the international community for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

During talks at the G20 meeting in Brazil on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan called on the international community to take a more active role toward advancing a ceasefire in Gaza and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan attends the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb. 21, 2024. (Silvia Izquierdo/AP)

Fidan told the foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro that the “savagery” in Gaza must be stopped, and discussed steps to achieve an urgent ceasefire and get more aid into the enclave during talks with counterparts from the United States, Germany and Egypt, the source said.

During talks between Fidan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “steps that can be taken to achieve a full ceasefire as soon as possible were discussed,” the source said, adding that Fidan also discussed “concrete steps” to stop the fighting during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

“The fact that a decision on a ceasefire did not come out of the UN Security Council once again has shown that reform is a must,” Fidan told a session at the G20 meeting, according to one of his aides, referring to a third US veto on a ceasefire call at the 15-member body.

Turkey, which has harshly criticized Israel for its war against Hamas in Gaza and backed measures to have Israel tried for genocide at the World Court, has repeatedly called for a ceasefire.

Unlike its Western allies and some Gulf nations, Turkey, a NATO member, does not recognize Hamas as a terror group.

Attempts to renew negotiations for a possible pause in the fighting in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages are underway, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said Thursday.

Minister Benny Gantz at a press conference at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, Feb. 21, 2024. (Contact Productions)

“Initial signs indicate a possibility of moving forward,” Gantz said. It’s the first Israeli indication of renewed talks since negotiations stalled a week ago.

However, Gantz repeated his pledge that unless Hamas agrees to release the remaining Israeli hostages in Gaza, Israel will launch a ground invasion in Rafah during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israel believes that the last remaining Hamas battalions are in Rafah, along with some of the group’s leaders and hostages.

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