Army says it struck Hamas underground sites where senior commanders were hiding

Spokesman says the strikes targeted military and political leaders in terror group; military drops leaflets warning Palestinians to leave parts of southern Gaza

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Nov. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Nov. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The IDF announced Thursday that it targeted a number of Hamas’s top political and military leaders in a pair of recent airstrikes against the terror group’s underground infrastructure in Gaza.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari did not specify whether the senior Hamas officials were killed in the airstrikes. The army has targeted several of the listed individuals multiple times in the past 15 years.

One strike targeted a tunnel where several senior Hamas military commanders were hiding, including Ahmed Ghandour and Ayman Siam, Hagari said.

The other strike targeted a tunnel where senior members of Hamas’s politburo were hiding, including Rawhi Mushtaha, Essam al-Dalis and Sameh al-Siraj, the IDF spokesperson added.

Hagari said he could not elaborate further on the strike, but that “it can be said with certainty that the underground area where they were was very heavily damaged.”

“Hamas is trying to hide the results of the strike,” he said.

Ahmed Ghandour

Ghandour was the head of the Hamas military wing’s northern Gaza brigade and one of the most senior military officials in the terror group.

He reportedly has not made contact with his superiors since Saturday.

Ghandour is said to be a close confidant of Hamas military chief Muhammed Deif and oversaw the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.

He is believed to have survived several IDF assassination attempts, including in 2002 and 2012, and the US State Department designated him as a global terrorist in 2017.

He served time in Israeli jails from 1988 to 1994 and was jailed by the Palestinian Authority from 1995 to 2000.

Ayman Siam

Siam has served as the head of Hamas’s rocket firing array.

Israel has previously attempted to assassinate Siam, including in 2009 and 2014.

He also once served as the commander of Hamas’s artillery forces.

Essam al-Dalis

Dalis has been a part of Hamas’s political leadership, serving as a de-facto prime minister in Gaza since 2021 after heading government administration in the Strip.

He is considered close to Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh, previously serving as his adviser.

Rawhi Mushtaha

Mushtaha has served as de facto prime minister of the Gaza Strip alongside Dalis and is in charge of financial affairs within the Hamas politburo.

He reportedly helped establish the Hamas military wing and was arrested by Israel in 1988 before being released in 2011 as part of the Shalit prisoner swap. He joined the Hamas politburo a year later.

In 2015, Mushtaha was designated a terrorist by the US State Department.

He is said to be a close confidant of Hamas Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar and is seen as one of the terror group’s most hawkish members.

He reportedly helped establish Hamas’s internal security unit.

The IDF is said to have bombed his family’s Gaza City house in the early days of the war.

Sameh al-Siraj

Siraj has served in the Hamas politburo since 2021 and is also in charge of internal security within the Strip.

He reportedly headed a secret intelligence unit operating out of Turkey.

Siraj, Mushtana and Dalis were among the few Hamas political leaders who remained in the Strip along with Sinwar. The remaining top leaders are based in Qatar.

Turning south

Also Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said the military was “close” to eliminating Hamas’s “military system” in the northern part of Gaza.

“We are quite close to destroying the [Hamas] military system that existed in the northern Gaza Strip,” Halevi told commanders in a video published by the IDF following his visit to the Strip.

“We will complete it, there is some finishing to be done, but we are getting close to doing it nicely,” he added.

He said the IDF would continue its activity in the Gaza Strip, as long as it is given leave to keep going, “in more and more areas, and going to kill [Hamas] commanders and operatives and destroy the infrastructure.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Thursday that the IDF has killed 4,000 terrorists since the outbreak of the war.

Israeli forces dropped leaflets warning Palestinians to leave parts of southern Gaza, residents said, signaling a possible expansion of operations.

The leaflets dropped east of the southern town of Khan Younis warned civilians to evacuate the area and said that anyone in the vicinity of terrorists or their positions “is putting their life in danger.” Similar leaflets were dropped over northern Gaza for weeks ahead of the ground invasion.

Two local reporters who live east of Khan Younis confirmed seeing the leaflets to the Associated Press. Others shared images of the leaflets on social media.

Israel has largely focused its operations in northern Gaza, urging residents to flee south while still targeting terror sites in the lower half of the Strip.

Most of the enclave’s population of 2.3 million people is now sheltering in southern Gaza where, according to the Financial Times, the IDF believes Hamas’s remaining leaders are hiding in tunnels.

War erupted when Hamas-led terrorists launched a devastating onslaught on October 7, in which they rampaged through southern communities, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians butchered in their homes and at a music festival, and kidnapped at least 240 people. In response, Israel embarked on a massive air and ground campaign aiming to topple the terror group’s regime in Gaza, which it has ruled since 2007.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said Wednesday that 11,500 people had been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, including at least 4,710 children and 3,160 women. The figures cannot be independently verified and do not distinguish between civilians and terrorists, and also do not differentiate between those killed by Israeli airstrikes and those by failed Palestinian rocket launches.

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