IDF says senior Hamas operative killed in Gaza

Senior officer moderately hurt in Gaza City amid renewed fighting in Strip’s north

Rockets fired at Ashkelon, injuring 3; military presses on in Rafah, battles resurgent Hamas in Zeitoun, Jabaliya; IDF says terror operative who guarded Noa Marciano killed in airstrike

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

Israeli troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated image released by the military on May 12, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated image released by the military on May 12, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

A senior Israeli officer was wounded fighting in Gaza on Friday, the military announced Sunday, as battles raged across the Strip amid army operations in Rafah in Gaza’s south, and Zeitoun and Jabaliya in in its north.

Brig. Gen. Yogev Bar Sheshet, the Defense Ministry’s deputy comptroller for the defense establishment, was moderately wounded by shrapnel from gunfire in Gaza City, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The top officer was with the Nahal Infantry Brigade chief’s forward command team in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City when he was hurt. He is the most senior IDF officer to be wounded in fighting in the Strip amid the war. Five Nahal soldiers were killed fighting Hamas in Zeitoun on Friday.

The IDF has returned several times to the Zeitoun neighborhood since the war’s outbreak, as Hamas has repeatedly managed to regroup in areas previously cleared by the army.

Also on Sunday, the IDF said that a senior Hamas operative in the terror group’s Shati Battalion was killed in an airstrike in Gaza on Friday. Naim Ghoul, according to the IDF and Shin Bet, was involved in rocket fire at Israel, and was among those responsible for guarding hostage Cpl. Noa Marciano in the Gaza Strip.

Marciano, who was abducted on October 7, was later killed by Hamas at Shifa Hospital. Her body was recovered by the IDF in November. In February, the IDF had said it killed Ahmed Ghoul, another Shati Battalion commander who was involved in guarding Marciano.

Then-Lt. Col. Yogev Bar Sheshet (right), the outgoing commander of the Nahal Brigade’s 50th Battalion, in June 22, 2016. (Israel Defense Forces)

On Sunday, the IDF said several gunmen were killed in close-quarters combat and by airstrikes in Zeitoun. Strikes were also carried out against Hamas infrastructure, it added.

Sunday also saw rocket fire from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel. At around 1 a.m., a rocket fired at the southern city of Ashkelon directly struck a home, lightly wounding three people, authorities said.

Sirens again sounded in Ashkelon on Sunday afternoon, with no reports of damage or injuries.

Several rockets were also launched at the border city of Sderot, with some of the projectiles being intercepted and others hitting open areas, the IDF said.

The military said another two rockets fired from Rafah in southern Gaza at the Kerem Shalom area on the border were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.

The key Kerem Shalom Crossing with the southern Gaza Strip, used for humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza, was reopened last week after having been shuttered days earlier following a deadly Hamas rocket attack.

Meanwhile, overnight, the IDF launched an operation against Hamas in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, after it said Hamas was identified regrouping in the area.

Ahead of the entry of the 98th Division into Jabaliya, fighter jets and other aircraft struck some 30 Hamas targets, killing several operatives, the military said Sunday morning.

The IDF said it had “intelligence information about the presence of terrorists and the restoration of terror infrastructure of the Hamas terror group in the area.”

An evacuation order was given for the Jabaliya area on Saturday, where the IDF estimated there were between 100,000 and 150,000 Palestinians.

Israeli troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated image released by the military on May 12, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

According to a Channel 13 report Saturday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi noted the need for troops to return to Jabaliya when he criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during security consultations over the weekend for failing to develop and declare a postwar strategy.

“We are now operating once again in Jabaliya. As long as there’s no diplomatic process to develop a governing body in the Strip that isn’t Hamas, we’ll have to launch campaigns again and again in other places to dismantle Hamas’s infrastructure,” Halevi was quoted by Channel 13 as saying. “It will be a Sisyphean task.”

Netanyahu and his government have long faced criticism over their refusal to make a plan for the management of Gaza after the war. The international community has pushed for the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority to take control, but Netanyahu says he will not allow a governing body that supports terror through education and financing to rule the enclave.

Operations in the northern Gaza Strip came as the IDF pressed ahead with a controversial offensive in the southern city of Rafah.

The IDF said troops of the 162nd Division discovered and destroyed several tunnel shafts and rocket launchers primed for attacks on Israel in Rafah, including in the area of the Palestinian side of the Rafah Crossing with Egypt.

Some 10 Hamas gunmen spotted by troops in the area were killed in an airstrike, the military said.

Palestinians displaced by the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip walk through a makeshift tent camp in Rafah, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Israel ordered new evacuations in Rafah, instructing tens of thousands more people to move as it prepares to expand its military operation closer to the heavily populated central area, in defiance of growing pressure from close ally the United States and others.

It ordered civilians out of the eastern outskirts of Rafah last week. In the initial evacuation zone and other areas of Rafah, around 300,000 Palestinians evacuated to a designated “humanitarian zone,” according to IDF assessments.

Around a million more Palestinians, who fled other parts of Gaza during the war, remain in the city itself, and they have not been called to evacuate yet. The operation remains limited in scope amid negotiations via mediators to secure the release of hostages who were abducted from Israel during the Hamas October 7 assault.

Israel says that it has made plans to evacuate civilians from areas of combat, and that it must tackle Hamas’s remaining battalions in Rafah to fully defeat the group in the enclave.

Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment on the Gaza Strip from a position in southern Israel on May 12, 2024. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

Over the past day, airstrikes were carried out against more than 150 targets across Gaza, according to the military. The targets included rocket launchers, cells of gunmen, weapon depots, observation posts, tunnels, and other infrastructure, the IDF said Sunday.

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 attacks, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

The ensuing war has killed over 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, though data issued by the Hamas-run authorities cannot be independently verified, and is believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

Israel has said it has killed some 15,000 terror operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7, while 272 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border.

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