The Israel Defense Forces announced on Sunday the death of a soldier killed a day earlier during the ground operation in Gaza, and the military said it had located Hamas rocket launchers in close proximity to a swimming pool and a playground in the Strip.
Sgt. Yehonatan Maimon, 20, of the Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance unit, from Ofakim, was killed during fighting in the northern part of the enclave. His death brings the toll of slain soldiers in Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza to 29, and 346 since the massive Hamas terror attack on October 7.
Additionally, another soldier of the Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance unit and a reservist officer in the Armored Corps were seriously wounded during the fighting, the IDF added.
Meanwhile the IDF shared footage of its troops locating rocket-launching positions in civilian areas, amid efforts to uncover and destroy Hamas infrastructure. The terror group uses such sites to fire rockets at Israeli population centers.
Troops found four underground launchers some five meters (16 feet) from a children’s swimming pool, and around 30 meters from residential homes in the northern Gaza Strip, footage showed. Another clip showed troops locating a number of rocket launchers within a children’s playground and amusement park compound.
“This is further proof of the Hamas terror organization’s constant use of the civilian population as a human shield for terror purposes,” the IDF said in a statement.
Hamas continued to fire rockets at Israel on Sunday, targeting the Gaza border communities which have been largely evacuated.
At the same time, the military continued to carry out airstrikes on Hamas targets while forces deepened the ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The IDF said that since the beginning of the ground offensive in the Gaza Strip a week ago, it has struck more than 2,500 targets by land, air and navy forces, and that ground forces also directed aircraft to strike Hamas infrastructure, weapons storage sites, observation posts and command centers.
The Hamas-run health ministry claimed that more than 30 people were killed in an Israeli strike on the Al-Maghazi neighborhood in central Gaza late Saturday. Hamas figures cannot be independently confirmed, and the terror group has been accused of artificially inflating the death toll.
An Israeli military spokesperson said they were looking into whether its troops had been operating in the area at the time.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said Sunday that more than 9,770 Palestinians have been killed since Hamas sparked war with its murderous assault. The figures do not differentiate between terror operatives and civilians nor between those killed in Israeli strikes and those killed by the hundreds of rockets fired by terror groups that have fallen short inside the Strip.
The Israeli army has urged residents of northern Gaza to move south as it intensifies its activity in the Gaza City area. The military said it would allow civilians to move south through an evacuation corridor for four hours on Sunday.
An estimated 800,000 Palestinians have fled to the south from Gaza City and other northern areas following repeated Israeli calls to evacuate, but hundreds of thousands remain in the north, including many who left and later returned. Israel is also carrying out some airstrikes in the south.
Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of attempting to prevent Palestinians from evacuating northern Gaza, including firing on them and bombing evacuation routes, due to its desire to keep civilians around its centers of activity as human shields.
The IDF said Saturday that Hamas took advantage of the Israeli military making preparations for the opening of an evacuation corridor, and launched mortars and anti-tank guided missiles at troops working to open up the road for civilians. It said Hamas did so “in order to prevent [the road’s] opening for the movement of residents of the Gaza Strip.” No soldiers were hurt in the attack, the IDF said.
On Saturday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel was “taking apart Hamas battalion after battalion” and would eliminate the terror group’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar.
Gallant said Israeli forces were attacking terror targets in Gaza City from both the south and north, and had entered urban areas.
He said “Hamas has no limits,” as Israel saw on October 7 with the terror group’s horrific assault and brutal killings. “The Hamas leadership is responsible. We will get to that leadership,” he vowed. “We will get to [Hamas Gaza chief] Yahya Sinwar and eliminate him. If the residents of Gaza get there ahead of us, that will shorten the war.”
When the war ends, he said, “there will be no more Hamas in Gaza. There will be no more security threat from Gaza on Israel, and Israel will have absolute freedom to take whatever security action it seeks against anyone who raises their head in Gaza [to threaten it].”
The IDF pushed forward with its ground offensive in the northern part of the enclave Saturday, with infantry and tanks encountering numerous attempts by Hamas operatives to come out of tunnels to attack troops.
The forces killed several gunmen and located the tunnels, which would be later destroyed, the IDF said. In one encounter, the IDF said ground forces fought off a group of 15 Hamas operatives, killing several of them, and shelling their observation posts.
The military also continued to carry out airstrikes on terror targets throughout the Strip. It said it struck some 120 targets in the Strip throughout the day, including Hamas compounds and anti-tank launch positions.
Israel declared war with the aim of eradicating Hamas following the terror group’s devastating October 7 onslaught, in which thousands of terrorists stormed through the border and murdered some 1,400 people, mostly civilians killed in their homes and at a music festival, and abducted over 240 of all ages who are being held captive in Gaza. The Hamas assault came under a barrage of thousands of rockets fired across Israel. Hamas and other terror groups have continued to rain rockets on Israel, displacing over 200,000 Israelis.
Israeli leaders have rejected humanitarian ceasefires in the Strip as the Israeli military presses its offensive, and Jerusalem has warned that Hamas will abuse any pauses in fighting for its war effort.
On Sunday, France joined the United States in calls for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting.
France’s Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called for an “immediate” humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas war as casualties climb in the Gaza Strip, whose population is living on dwindling supplies plundered by Hamas.
“An immediate, durable and observed humanitarian truce is absolutely necessary and must be able to lead to a ceasefire,” Colonna told reporters during a visit to Qatar.
Agencies contributed to this report.