ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Soldier killed in southern Gaza fighting, raising ground op toll to 225

IDF says troops raided a Khan Younis building used by a senior Hamas commander; air force and navy strike terror targets in Strip

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

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

Fighting continued in Gaza on Sunday with the IDF announcing the death a day earlier 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.

As fighting and strikes against the terror group continued across the Strip, the IDF said troops raided a building in Khan Younis used by a senior Hamas commander.

The Paratroopers Brigade raided the multistory building, which the IDF said was used by Hamas’s Khan Younis Brigade commander to manage the fighting against Israel. In the building, the IDF said, the troops located weapons and military equipment.

In a separate raid, the IDF said, the soldiers found a cache of RPGs in an apartment. The IDF said the Paratroopers Brigade also killed several Hamas gunmen in close-quarters combat over the past day, as well as an operative who hurled two grenades and approached soldiers with a knife.

IDF troops seen operating in Gaza in this handout photo cleared for publication on February 4, 2024. (IDF)

The Givati Brigade, also operating in Khan Younis, killed a gunman approaching them and directed an airstrike on two more operatives heading toward a building, the IDF said.

Also in the southern Gaza city, the IDF said a fighter jet struck and killed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad sniper.

Meanwhile, in northern Gaza, the IDF said the 401st Armored Brigade killed seven Hamas gunmen over the past day.

The IDF said the Israeli Air Force carried out several strikes across Gaza over the past day, including Hamas rocket launching positions and other infrastructure.

The Navy also carried out strikes along the Strip’s coast, aiding the ground forces operating in the area. The IDF said Navy vessels hit several Hamas and Islamic Jihad sites, including a building where operatives were gathered.

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

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

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

The United Nations has said the town is becoming a “pressure cooker of despair.”

The European Union on Saturday expressed deep concern over the Israeli military’s apparent intention to take its battle against Hamas to Rafah at Gaza’s border with Egypt. The prospect of a ground war in the city has raised fears about where the population would go to find safety.

A young man carries gas canisters in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 4, 2024 (Mohammed ABED / AFP)

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that conflict is likely to spread throughout the region unless a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is reached, after US airstrikes hit dozens of sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards following a deadly drone attack on US soldiers in Jordan.

Escalations between the US and Iranian proxies began after war broke out between Israel and Hamas when some 3,000 members of the terrorist group infiltrated Israel from Gaza on October 7 under a barrage of rockets, killing approximately 1,200 people and taking another estimated 253 hostage.

The war has led to the deaths of more than 27,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since October 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. The terror group’s figures are unverified, don’t differentiate between civilians and combatants, and list all the fatalities as caused by Israel — even those believed to have been caused by hundreds of misfired rockets or otherwise by Palestinian fire.

Israel has said it has killed some 10,000 Hamas members, in addition to some 1,000 killed in Israel in the aftermath of the terror group’s October 7 invasion and onslaught.

People drive in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 4, 2024. (Mohammed ABED / AFP)

Amid reports of an imminent announcement by Hamas on whether the terror group will agree to a proposal for a deal that would see hostages released in exchange for an extended pause in fighting, increased humanitarian aid for Gaza, and the release of Palestinian prisoners, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to make his fifth crisis visit to the Middle East to push for the proposal, the State Department has said.

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, whose country has close ties with Lebanon, is also making a trip through the region, according to a spokesman.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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