IAF jets hit Hamas, PIJ weapons depots, troops battle terrorists in central Gaza

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

IDF troops operate in the central Gaza corridor, in a handout image published May 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate in the central Gaza corridor, in a handout image published May 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli Air Force struck numerous sites belonging to terror groups in the Gaza Strip over the past day, the military says, as troops continue to operate in the Netzarim Corridor area.

The ground operations in central Gaza come as the Israeli military has indicated it is fully prepared to immediately launch its planned offensive in southern Gaza’s Rafah, regarded as one of the last Hamas strongholds in the Strip.

The IDF says targets hit by fighter jets in Gaza over the past day included weapon depots, buildings used by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and rocket and mortar launching positions, including those used to target troops operating in Gaza.

Troops of the 99th Division operating in central Gaza also called in several airstrikes on operatives who were launching rockets at the forces, the IDF says.

In one incident, the IDF says, reservists of the division’s Yiftah Brigade identified several operatives moving toward troops in central Gaza and called in an airstrike against them.

Shortly after the strike, another cell was spotted planting a bomb in the area, and it too was struck by an IAF aircraft, the military adds.

IDF troops operate in the central Gaza corridor, in a handout image published May 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Yiftah Brigade troops also discovered a cache of weapons, military equipment, and documents in a building in their area of operations.

Meanwhile, the IDF is awaiting a decision by the government regarding the offensive in Rafah, where Israel says four Hamas battalions remain intact.

If the order is given, the operation will begin with the military calling on Palestinians to evacuate the Rafah area to designated safe zones.

More than one million Palestinian civilians are estimated to be sheltering in the Rafah area, although some have already begun moving to Khan Younis after the IDF withdrew from there last month.

Ahead of the planned Rafah offensive, the “humanitarian zone” in the al-Mawasi area on the Strip’s coast is being expanded for the population of Rafah to shelter there, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari announced last week.

Israel is still awaiting answers from Hamas on the latest proposal for a hostage deal. Should there be a truce, Israel is expected to postpone the Rafah offensive, but not outright cancel it.

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