ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Mock Israeli towns, IDF bases: Troops raid Hamas compound used to train for Oct. 7

Givati soldiers find rocket depot, tunnel leading to underground network in Khan Younis HQ; IDF identifies terror operatives hiding in civilian shelters in southern Gaza

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

Soldiers of the Givati Brigade operate in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in an image published on February 4, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Soldiers of the Givati Brigade operate in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in an image published on February 4, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Givati Brigade troops raided the main headquarters of Hamas’s Khan Younis Brigade, used by the terror group for training ahead of its brutal October 7 onslaught, the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday, as the war in the Gaza Strip neared its fourth month.

The Khan Younis complex, known as the al-Qadsia outpost, also housed the office of Muhammad Sinwar, a senior Hamas military commander and the brother of the terror group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, according to the IDF.

The military said al-Qadsia included a training ground with mock entrances to Israeli communities, IDF bases, and military vehicles, for Hamas to simulate and prepare for the October 7 attacks, during which thousands of terrorists burst across the border into Israel, killed some 1,200 people and seized over 250 hostages, mostly civilians.

Another part of the complex included a Hamas command center and offices belonging to the Khan Younis Brigade’s senior commanders, as well as a rocket depot and tunnel leading to a vast underground network, the IDF said. Troops also found a weapons manufacturing site nearby.

The IDF said that when troops arrived to raid the outpost in the southern Gaza city, they discovered that Hamas had boobytrapped the area with explosive devices, which were neutralized by combat engineers. Hamas gunmen also tried to ambush troops from an area near the outpost. The operatives opened fire, and troops responded with sniper fire, tank shelling, and airstrikes, killing all of them, the military said.

Elsewhere in Khan Younis, the IDF said it identified Hamas operatives hiding among civilian shelters in the western side of the city.

In recent days, some 120,000 Palestinians were evacuated from the Khan Younis camp via a humanitarian corridor established by the IDF. Among those moving through the corridor, Givati Brigade troops nabbed some 500 terror suspects and handed them over to be questioned in Israel.

Some were suspected of being involved in the October 7 attacks, according to military sources.

“The brigade is operating forcefully in western Khan Younis and managing to bring the terrorists out of their hiding places every day,” said brigade commander Col. Liron Betito.

Soldiers of the Givati Brigade operate in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, in an image published February 4, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Givati troops have killed an estimated 550 Hamas operatives in battles in the Khan Younis area in recent weeks, and another 250 in airstrikes directed by the brigade, sources said. On Sunday alone, in the Khan Younis camp, Givati troops killed 14 gunmen.

Earlier on Sunday, the IDF announced the death the previous day of Sgt. First Class (res.) Shimon Yehoshua Asulin, a 24-year-old resident of Beit Shemesh.

Asulin, of the Combat Engineering Corps’ 924th Battalion, was killed in battle in the southern Gaza Strip, the army said. He was the 225th soldier to have been killed in Israel’s ground operation in Gaza.

Sgt. First Class (res.) Shimon Yehoshua Asulin (IDF)

The IDF Paratroopers Brigade was also advancing in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis, killing numerous Hamas operatives, the army said. The neighborhood is a major Hamas stronghold, where the army said troops had so far located weapons and dozens of sites belonging to the terror group, including tunnel shafts, observation posts, and weapons manufacturing plants.

As the Paratroopers Brigade advanced in the area, the soldiers encountered several Hamas cells attempting to open fire and place explosive devices, the IDF said, adding that forces killed numerous gunmen in close-quarters combat, with sniper fire, with mortar shelling, and by directing airstrikes.

Meanwhile, soldiers raided several Hamas sites where the terror group hid money, including the offices of an exchange store, and seized more than NIS 3 million in cash, the IDF said.

On Sunday morning, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said that at least 92 people had been killed overnight, including in what the terror group’s media office claimed was an Israeli airstrike of a kindergarten in Rafah, where displaced people were sheltering.

There was no immediate response from the IDF over the claim and the figure could not be independently verified.

Smoke rises over buildings amid Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 3, 2024. (Mohammed ABED / AFP)

Hundreds of thousands of Gazans have poured into the southernmost city of Rafah to escape fighting elsewhere in the Strip and after the IDF has urged them to evacuate other areas in the months since the war against Hamas began.

The Gaza health ministry says at least 27,365 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory since Israel launched its military operation aiming to destroy Hamas and return the hostages. The latest toll includes 127 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, while a total of 66,630 people have been wounded in Gaza since October 7.

The figures issued by the Hamas-run health ministry cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 10,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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