Israel finds tunnels under vacation homes of Yahya Sinwar, other top Hamas officials

Shaft also found under baby’s crib in north Gaza, as fighting rages throughout Strip; three soldiers killed in fighting in territory’s north, south, bringing ground op toll to 122

Palestinians at the site of an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 17, 2023. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinians at the site of an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 17, 2023. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israeli forces announced Sunday that they had discovered tunnels under Gaza vacation homes used by senior Hamas leaders, as well as another shaft located under a baby’s crib in the northern Strip, as widespread fighting continued across the territory.

Troops of the 7th Armored Brigade raided the offices of the commander of Hamas’s Khan Younis battalion and the vacation homes of several senior Hamas commanders, including the Palestinian terror group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The commander of the 7th Armored Brigade, Col. Elad Tzuri, said his forces were battling Hamas in the Khan Younis area, and that the brigade had reached the main square in Bani Suheila, on the outskirts of the southern Gaza city.

During the operations, the brigade’s troops killed “many terrorists,” including some by tank shelling, the IDF said in a statement, adding that troops had also uncovered some 30 tunnel shafts, struck dozens of anti-tank missile launch sites and observation posts, and seized weapons used by Hamas operatives, along with intelligence materials.

“We found weapons, tunnels inside vacation homes of senior Hamas officials,” Tzuri said. “We see a lot of tunnel shafts here, still encountering the enemy but gaining operational control of the area.”

Along with the offices of the Khan Younis battalion commander and holiday homes of senior Hamas commanders, the IDF said troops also raided an outpost belonging to the terror group’s Deir al-Balah battalion, seizing intelligence materials.

Elsewhere, soldiers of the Nahal Infantry Brigade’s 931st Battalion uncovered a Hamas tunnel hidden underneath a baby’s crib in a home in the northern Gaza city of Jabaliya.

In footage published by the IDF, a company commander in the 931st Battalion gives a tour in English of the home and where the soldiers found the tunnel.

The IDF said the underground passage was a “strategic” Hamas attack tunnel, adding that it was later destroyed by combat engineers.

The IDF has carried out strikes against some 200 Hamas sites in Gaza over the last day, the military said.

In another raid, troops seized weapons and equipment at the home of a member of Hamas’s elite Nukhba forces, the IDF added.

Elsewhere in Gaza, the Paratroopers Brigade raided several apartments used by Hamas in Gaza City’s Shejaiya and found firearms, explosive devices and other military equipment. Also in the area, the troops were said to have found a 15-meter-long (50-foot) tunnel that was later destroyed in an airstrike.

Israeli troops operating in the Gaza Strip in a photo released December 17, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)

In southern Gaza, the IDF said that the Commando Brigade had directed an airstrike on a “significant” Hamas weapons depot in the home of an operative. The army added that the depot had often been used by operatives in the area who needed to rearm.

The Commando Brigade also identified seven armed Hamas operatives in the Khan Younis area and directed airstrikes at them.

Meanwhile, the 646th Brigade raided a building near an UNRWA school, where machinery used to build rockets was found, the IDF said, adding that three tunnel shafts were also found in the area of the school.

The IDF announced Sunday morning that two soldiers had been killed during fighting in Gaza the previous day.

Sergeant Major (res.) Shalev Zaltsman, left and Master Sergeant (res.) Joseph Avner Doran. (IDF Spokesperson)

Master Sgt. (res.) Joseph Avner Doran, 26, from Jerusalem, of the combat mobility Unit 444, served in the Navy’s Shayetet 13 commando unit. Doran was killed in northern Gaza.

Sgt. First Class (res.) Shalev Zaltsman, 24, from Ramat Yishai, of the 55th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade’s 6623rd Battalion, was killed in southern Gaza.

Later Sunday, the IDF announced the death of Staff Sgt. Boris Dunavetski, 21, of the 401st Armored Brigade’s 46th Battalion, from Kiryat Bialik, bringing the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 122.

Staff Sgt. Boris Dunavetski (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel’s war with Hamas, which entered its tenth week on Sunday, began after the deadly Hamas onslaught on October 7, in which thousands of terrorists rampaged across southern Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages.

Since the start of the war, the Hamas-run health ministry has said that more than 18,800 people have been killed, most of them civilians. These numbers cannot be independently verified, however, and are believed to include some 7,000 Hamas or Hamas-affiliated operatives, as well as civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets.

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