20 rockets fired from Gaza in largest barrage in months; soldier killed in Rafah

No injuries or damage caused in attack claimed by Islamic Jihad on border communities; infantryman slain in Rafah named as Sgt. Ori Itzchak Hadad, 21

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

IDF troops operate in the central Gaza Strip, in a handout photo published by the IDF on July 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate in the central Gaza Strip, in a handout photo published by the IDF on July 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

An Israeli soldier was killed during fighting in southern Gaza’s Rafah on Monday morning, the military said, as Palestinian terrorists in the Strip launched at least 20 rockets at Israeli border communities, marking the largest barrage in at least seven months.

The slain troop was named as Sgt. Ori Itzchak Hadad, 21, of the Nahal Brigade’s 931st Battalion, from Beersheba.

Another nine soldiers of the battalion were wounded, one of them seriously, in the same incident. According to an initial military probe, the soldiers were hit by an explosion in a booby-trapped building.

Hadad’s death brought the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas and in operations on the Gaza border to 319.

The toll includes a police officer killed in a hostage rescue mission. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor was also killed in the Strip.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group claimed responsibility for the major rocket barrage on Israeli communities bordering the Gaza Strip on Monday morning.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the barrage of at least 20 rockets was launched from the Khan Younis area in the southern Gaza Strip, where the military had previously operated.

Sgt. Ori Itzchak Hadad, 21, killed in fighting in Gaza’s Rafah, July 1, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

The Iron Dome air defense system shot down some of the rockets, while others impacted in southern Israel, the IDF said.

Troops were shelling the launch sites with artillery, it added.

Local authorities said there were no injuries or damage in the attack.

Sirens sounded in Ein Hashlosha, Kissufim, Nirim, Sufa, Sde Avraham, Dekel, Yated, Holit, and Nir Oz. Many communities close to the Gaza border are evacuated.

Smoke trails from rockets fired by Gaza terror groups as seen from the Israeli side of the border, April 7, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The last large barrage launched from Gaza, of at least 25 rockets, was launched at the southern Israeli city of Netivot in January. In May, Hamas fired 10 rockets from southern Gaza’s Rafah at central Israel.

The Monday attack came after Defense Minister Yoav Gallant asserted during a visit to Rafah a day earlier that the Hamas terror group was unable to recover from the pressure applied by Israeli operations and, choked off from its weapons supply, is a broken force running out of time.

In a prelude to its offensive in Rafah, the IDF captured the adjacent Rafah Border Crossing with Egypt and uncovered 25 smuggling tunnels along the boundary, believed key conduits Hamas used to smuggle weapons into the Strip.

On Monday, the IDF said it carried out a drone strike against an operative who launched an anti-tank projectile at troops in Rafah.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with IDF troops in southern Gaza’s Rafah, June 30, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry)

Heavy fighting, meanwhile, has shifted north, where the army on Thursday launched a fresh operation in Shejaiya, after identifying Hamas fighters regrouping in the eastern Gaza City neighborhood.

Dozens of terror operatives were killed in a series of airstrikes in Shejaiya over the past day, the military said Monday.

The IDF said troops under the 98th Division killed several more gunmen in close-quarters combat in Shejaiya, and located weaponry during raids.

The dozens of sites struck by aircraft in Shejaiya over the past day included weapon manufacturing a storage sites, the military said.

Battles were also ongoing in the Netzarim corridor in central Gaza, where the army has established a base of operations meant to maintain security control over the territory and halt Hamas movement between the southern and northern parts of the Strip.

The IDF said it carried out a strike against an operative who launched a rocket at troops in the corridor on Sunday.

The war erupted on October 7 when Palestinian terror group Hamas led a massive cross-border attack on Israel, killing some 1,200 people and abducting 251 people as hostages to Gaza.

IDF troops operate in Shejaiya in the Gaza Strip in a picture released on June 30, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel responded with a military campaign to destroy Hamas, topple its Gaza regime, and free the hostages.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 37,500 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though the toll cannot be verified and does not differentiate between civilians and fighters. Israel says it has killed some 15,000 combatants in battle and some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel during the October 7 attack.

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