IDF says reservist commando officer killed in Gaza, raising ground op toll to 224

Ground operation continues to be centered around Khan Younis in south, including intelligence gathering, while reports indicate stepped up Israeli airstrikes in north’s Gaza City

Maj. (res.) Yitzhar Hofman, 36, a commander in the Israeli Air Force’s elite Shaldag unit. (Israel Defense Forces)
Maj. (res.) Yitzhar Hofman, 36, a commander in the Israeli Air Force’s elite Shaldag unit. (Israel Defense Forces)

As battles in Gaza continued to be centered in the southern part of the Strip on Wednesday, the IDF announced the death of a reservist killed during renewed fighting in the north.

He was named as Maj. (res.) Yitzhar Hofman, 36, a commander in the Israeli Air Force’s elite Shaldag unit, from Eshhar. His death brings the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 224.

Earlier in the day, the military announced the deaths of three soldiers killed a day earlier in fighting in the north and south of the Strip.

Media reports said the IDF stepped up airstrikes on Gaza City in the north on Wednesday, while its ground forces focused on fighting in the south. Smoke rose above Gaza City after the latest air strikes, some of which targeted the headquarters of the Hamas-run interior ministry, Hamas-run media and residents claimed.

The Al-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza also came under fire and tanks pounded areas of Khan Younis around Nasser Hospital, the largest still functioning in the south, witnesses said. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claimed that at least 125 people were killed over the past 24 hours in airstrikes in the Strip.

The IDF on Wednesday released footage showing recent strikes on Hamas gunmen in the Khan Younis area, after being identified by troops of the Border Defense Corps’s 414th Combat Intelligence Collection Unit.

The 414th unit, normally subordinate to the Gaza Division, has been operating alongside the various battalions fighting Hamas deep within Gaza.

Since the beginning of the ground operation in Gaza, the IDF says the unit located more than 100 tunnel shafts, aided in destroying some 200 Hamas sites, as well as dozens of rocket launchers, and directed strikes on numerous Hamas cells.

In Khan Younis, the IDF said, the unit has been collecting intelligence using drones, identifying booby-trapped buildings and Hamas cells, and calling in airstrikes.

Earlier Wednesday, the IDF said its troops were continuing a push against Hamas in the western part of the city, where most of the remaining hostages and the top Hamas leadership are believed to be.

In one incident in western Khan Younis, the Paratroopers Brigade spotted a Hamas gunman joining a cell before directing an airstrike against them, the IDF said. In another incident, the Air Force struck a building the military said had been used by another Hamas cell planning to ambush troops.

Meanwhile, Palestinian medics in Khan Younis say treating the wounded has been increasingly difficult in the city, due to street battles and artillery strikes, and they have formed field medical points to help reach the front lines.

Displaced Palestinians flee from Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 30, 2024. (Mahmud Hams/ AFP)

“There’s a lot of injuries among the displaced who were in the industrial quarter and some schools,” said Nassim Hassan, the head of the Emergency Unit at Nasser Hospital, adding that “many of the injured left loaded on carts, tuk-tuks, cars, or even on foot.”

Protests by family members of hostages and their allies at the Kerem Shalom border crossing to Gaza continued on Wednesday, as the activists attempted to block aid trucks from entering without the release of their loved ones. Dozens were detained and 120 trucks reportedly succeeding in entering.

Israel launched its war aimed at toppling Hamas after thousands of the terror group’s gunmen stormed across the border on October 7, massacring close to 1,200 people and taking another 253 hostages, 136 of them who are believed to remain captive.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says that close to 27,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes close to 10,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 gunmen inside Israel on October 7.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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