Israeli strike said to target Hamas operations chief Raad Saad in Gaza; unclear if he died

Palestinians say dozens killed in attacks in Gaza City; IDF probing Red Cross claims its office was hit in strike

Hamas operations chief Raad Saad in an undated photo (social media; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Hamas operations chief Raad Saad in an undated photo (social media; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Israel Defense Forces struck a Hamas military site in Gaza City’s Shati camp Saturday, an attack that reports in Hebrew and Arabic media said targeted senior Hamas commander Raad Saad, head of Hamas operations.

Some reports claimed Saad was killed in the attack. There was no confirmation from Israel or Hamas.

The IDF said fighter jets struck two Hamas military sites in Gaza City — in Shati and in the Tuffah neighborhood. The statement was unusual in that the army does not regularly announce specific strikes unless they are on a high-value target. The military said it would provide further details later.

Palestinian media report a large number of casualties in the strikes. Ismail Al-Thawabta, the director of the Hamas-run government media office, told Reuters that at least 42 Palestinians were killed. The figures cannot be verified and do not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Saad is considered to be among Hamas’s top military brass in the Gaza Strip, serving as chief of the terror group’s operations division. His death would mark the most significant killing of a Hamas commander in months, since the assassination of Marwan Issa, the deputy commander of the terror group’s military wing, in March.

Saad was believed by Israel to be at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital when the military raided the medical center in March, although he apparently managed to flee at the time.

Footage showed the aftermath of the airstrikes.

The military also said Saturday that Israeli fighter jets and other aircraft had struck numerous targets across the Gaza Strip over the past day, including weapon depots and cells of terror operatives.

In one incident, the IDF said it carried out a drone strike against a cell that had fired an anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli attack helicopter operating over Gaza.

The helicopter was not under any real threat, the military said, adding that an adjacent weapons warehouse used by the cell was also destroyed in a strike.

The military also responded to reports of gunfire Friday near teams of the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) along the Israeli-designated “humanitarian route” from the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip, saying troops had engaged two gunmen in the area.

“Following an examination on the matter, the IDF operated to neutralize two gunmen who posed a threat to nearby IDF troops in the area,” the military said. The IDF said the gunmen were not in close proximity to the UN workers during the incident. “We emphasize that the UN workers were not the target of the operation and they were not harmed during the strike,” the military said.

Separately, the IDF said it was examining claims of an attack in the al-Mawasi area Friday, which according to the Red Cross killed 22 people and damaged its office there.

“Following an initial inquiry, there was no direct attack carried out by the IDF against a Red Cross facility,” the military said in the statement. But it added that “the incident will be quickly examined and its findings will be presented to our international partners.”

The military did not rule out that one of its strikes had erroneously hit the area. Earlier in the day, an army spokesman had said there was “no indication” the attack was launched by the army.

The sun rises over destroyed buildings in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on June 22, 2024. (Bashar TALEB / AFP)

“The IDF makes significant efforts to avoid harming workers, UN facilities and international organizations working in the Gaza Strip,” it said. “The IDF is committed to enabling the activity and safe movement of international organizations.”

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said there were 25 dead and 50 injured in the shelling which it blamed on Israel. The ministry said Israeli shelling had “targeted the tents of the displaced in the Al-Mawasi area” which is around the ICRC base. The ministry’s information and figures could not be verified.

The ICRC said: “Heavy-caliber projectiles landed within meters of the office and residences of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday afternoon.”

“Firing so dangerously close to humanitarian structures, of whose locations the parties to the conflict are aware and which are clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem, puts the lives of civilians and Red Cross staff at risk,” the body added. “This grave security incident is one of several in recent days.”

Al-Mawasi is west of Rafah, where residents on Friday said the IDF appeared to be trying to complete its capture of the southern Gaza city, which borders Egypt and has been the focus of an Israeli offensive since early May.

The military said its forces were conducting “precise, intelligence-based” actions in the Rafah area, where troops were involved in close-quarter combat and had located tunnels used by terror groups.

Troops operate in the Gaza Strip in a handout photo published June 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Fighting also continued in central Gaza, where the IDF’s elite Multi-Domain, or Ghost, Unit recently wrapped up a raid at a university which the military said was used as a Hamas command center. The IDF said Hamas operatives had opened fire at troops from the university complex. The soldiers located a cache of weapons and barrels packed with explosives at the university, the military added.

Also in central Gaza, the military said three rockets were launched from the Nuseirat camp at southern Israel, setting off sirens in the border community of Re’im. The projectiles landed in an open area, with no reports of injuries or damage.

On Friday the army announced two reservists were killed in a Hamas mortar attack in the central Gaza Strip, raising the death toll in the ground offensive against Hamas and in operations on the Gaza border to 314. The toll includes a police officer killed in a hostage rescue mission. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

War erupted when Hamas-led terrorists rampaged through southern communities on October 7, murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 251 hostages to Gaza.

There are thought to be 120 hostages still held in Gaza, 116 of whom were kidnapped on October 7, in addition to two civilians and the bodies of two soldiers held there for nearly a decade.

Troops operate in the Gaza Strip in a handout photo published June 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 37,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far. The toll, which cannot be verified and does not differentiate between civilians and combatants, is thought to include some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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