IDF says numerous Gaza gunmen slain in weekend fighting; company commander killed

Death of Maj. Eyal Shuminov, 24, takes army’s ground op toll to 238; visiting troops, IDF chief says military pressure is ‘most effective’ action to bring about a hostage deal

Troops operate in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on February 24, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops operate in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on February 24, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

Intense fighting continued over the weekend between Israeli troops and Palestinian terror operatives throughout the Gaza Strip, including Khan Younis in the south, Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood in the north, and in the center of the Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces said many Hamas gunmen had been killed over the past day in all three theaters of operations.

And on Saturday evening, the military announced the death of an officer killed during fighting in northern Gaza over the weekend, bringing the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 238.

He was named as Maj. Eyal Shuminov, 24, a company commander in the Givati Brigade’s Shaked Battalion, from Karmiel.

During a visit to northern Gaza, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said military pressure on Hamas was “the most effective” action to bring about a potential hostage deal with the terror group, as talks were held in Paris on the latest proposals for an agreement.

“There is a connection between these things,” he said during an assessment with officers. “Your achievements — another battalion dismantled, more underground infrastructure [demolished], another neighborhood where [Hamas] infrastructure is destroyed and the population is evacuated to safety — all these things are pushing us, I very much hope, toward achieving the release of hostages.”

Maj. Eyal Shuminov, killed in fighting in northern Gaza, February 24, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

“This is a goal of war. We intend to do a great deal to realize it, and the fighting effort is the most effective action that helps those who are negotiating for the release of the hostages,” Halevi added.

The IDF also released footage showing airstrikes and tank shelling of Hamas operatives during operations in the Strip.

In western Khan Younis, the IDF said, paratroopers located a Hamas weapons depot with a large number of explosive devices, mines, grenades, ammunition, rockets and other military equipment.

Troops of the IDF’s 7th Armored Brigade raided the home of a senior Hamas intelligence officer in Khan Younis, locating a tunnel shaft and weapons nearby, the military said. The tunnel was later destroyed.

In the same area, the IDF said troops located a cache of mortars in repurposed bags from UN agency UNRWA, and other weapons and military equipment.

Amid the 7th Brigade’s operations in Khan Younis, the IDF said troops spotted eight Hamas operatives approaching them, before eliminating them with an Iron Sting guided mortar. It published footage of the strike.

Meanwhile, concern deepened Saturday over the growing humanitarian crisis in the war-torn enclave, with aid agencies warning of unprecedented levels of desperation and looming famine.

As civilians in the besieged territory struggled to get food and supplies, UNRWA warned Gazans were “in extreme peril while the world watches.”

In northern Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, bedraggled children held plastic containers and battered cooking pots for what little food was available.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to officers in the northern Gaza Strip, February 24, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Food is running out, with aid agencies saying they are unable to get into the area because of Israeli strikes, while the trucks that do try to get through face frenzied looting.

Residents have taken to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder unfit for human consumption, and even leaves.

The World Food Programme said this week its teams reported “unprecedented levels of desperation,” while the United Nations warned that 2.2 million people were on the brink of famine.

Israel has defended its track record on allowing aid into Gaza, saying that nearly 14,000 trucks carrying relief supplies had entered the territory since the start of the war.

A Palestinian woman reacts after an Israeli strike on a house in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

Israel has also alleged that humanitarian organizations operating inside Gaza are failing to keep up with the pace, saying hundreds of trucks filled with aid sit idle on the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

The UN, in turn, said it can’t always reach the trucks at the crossing because it is at times too dangerous.

Additionally, Israel has long accused Hamas of appropriating and stealing aid from an increasingly desperate civilian population.

According to an Axios report Saturday, the US has asked Israel to stop targeting Hamas policemen who are escorting aid convoys in Gaza. The report, citing three US and Israeli officials, comes after aid groups suspended deliveries to northern Gaza this week saying that the convoys were being overrun by hungry crowds.

According to Axios, the Biden administration asked Israel to stop targeting members of the Hamas-run civilian police force, warning that a “total breakdown of law and order” is significantly exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the enclave.

US officials say at least 11 Hamas policemen have been killed in Israeli strikes in recent weeks.

The report said Israel rebuffed the American request, telling the administration that a clear goal of the war was to end all Hamas control in Gaza and that Israel was working on alternative plans to ensure law and order.

Separate reports in Israel on Saturday indicated cautious optimism on the prospects of reaching a temporary truce and hostage release deal with Hamas that would see a pause in the fighting more than three months after the previous halt in late November in which over 100 hostages were freed.

Channel 12 reported that war cabinet ministers were to vote by phone later on whether to endorse an outline proposed by international mediators in Paris for a hostages-for-truce outline.

It said the deal apparently provides, in a first phase, for the release of some 40 hostages in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners and a truce of some 6 weeks. These would be mostly female, elderly and ill hostages.

The war in Gaza began on October 7 with Hamas’s brutal attack on southern Israel, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists went on a murderous rampage across local communities, killing 1,200 and taking 253 hostages.

The Hamas-run health ministry says nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7. These figures cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between civilians and terror operatives, or those killed by Hamas’s own rockets that exploded in the Strip. The IDF says it has killed some 12,000 terror operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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