Troops raiding Gaza’s Shifa hospital kill senior Hamas commander, says IDF

Death of soldier in southern Gaza fighting brings army’s toll during ground operation to 253; large section of tunnel linking north and south Gaza blown up

Smoke rises during an Israeli strike in the vicinity of the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on March 28, 2024. (AFP)
Smoke rises during an Israeli strike in the vicinity of the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on March 28, 2024. (AFP)

Israeli commandos raiding Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital killed one of the Hamas terror group’s top commanders, the army said Thursday, as fighting raged in several areas of the Strip and the number of troops killed in combat reached the symbolically significant toll of 253.

The Israel Defense Forces said Hamas commander Raad Thabet was killed by soldiers from the Navy’s Shayetet 13 commando unit as he attempted to flee with two other operatives into the hospital compound.

Thabet was the top official in charge of recruitment and supply acquisition for the terror group’s armed wing, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Thursday evening, announcing the killing.

He described Thabet as among the 10 most senior Hamas military commanders, and said he had been in close contact with leaders of the terror group, including its Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar and shadowy military wing head Mohammed Deif.

Israeli troops have been operating in the hospital since March 18, with the IDF saying that Hamas had re-established a command center there.

Hagari said troops also engaged in a firefight in the hospital’s maternity ward, killing three gunmen. Fighters also opened fire at troops after emerging from an emergency room, where they had been holed up, the army said earlier, noting that similar incidents had occurred several times over the past few days.

The IDF handout published March 28, 2024 showing senior Hamas commander Raad Thabet, stamped with “assassinated” after he was killed at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital. (Israel Defense Forces)

Troops have detained more than 900 terror suspects at Shifa Hospital during the raid, according to the IDF, and have killed more than 200 gunmen.

Hagari said Thursday that 513 of those captured had been confirmed to be members of terror groups, while 350 people were identified as patients and medical staff.

Shifa, the Gaza Strip’s biggest hospital before the war, had been one of the few healthcare facilities even partially operational in north Gaza before the latest fighting. It had also been housing displaced civilians.

Unverified footage on social media showed its surgery unit blackened by flames and nearby apartments on fire or destroyed.

Hamas and the allied Islamic Jihad terror group said in a statement they “bombed, with a barrage of mortar shells, gatherings of Israeli soldiers in the vicinity of the Al-Shifa Complex” in a joint operation.

IDF soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip in a photo cleared for publication on March 28, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says it has evacuated civilians, patients, and medical staff to another part of the hospital “prepared and established to allow proper medical treatment to continue.”

Soldier killed in Khan Younis

In southern Gaza, the army announced the death of Staff Sgt. Nisim Kachlon, 21, of the Givati Brigade’s Rotem Battalion.

According to the IDF, the Hadera native was killed Thursday amid fighting in the Khan Younis area.

His death brought the number of troops killed since Israel’s ground offensive began to 253, matching the number of people abducted on October 7 as Hamas-led terrorists carried out a brutal assault on southern Israel. Some 1,200 people were massacred during the onslaught; most of those killed and kidnapped were civilians.

Staff Sgt. Nisim Kachlon (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has vowed to both wipe out Hamas and secure the hostages’ release. The army says there are 130 people kidnapped from Israel in Hamas captivity, including nearly three dozen people who were killed on October 7 or while held hostage whose remains Gazan terrorists continue to hold.

Talks for a temporary truce and the release of hostages appeared to advance earlier in the week, but fell apart after Hamas rejected a compromise, saying it is will only agree to a permanent end to the war and complete withdrawal of troops from Gaza.

Earlier, the IDF said commando and other forces had seized hundreds of weapons during an ongoing offensive in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Numerous gunmen have also been killed by troops in al-Amal, including with sniper fire, in close-quarters combat, and by calling in airstrikes, according to the IDF.

Parachutes drop supplies into the northern Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, Thursday, March 28, 2024. (AP/Leo Correa)

In a video published by the IDF, a cache of firearms, explosive devices, and other military equipment was seen being found by the Paratroopers Brigade’s reconnaissance unit in a building adjacent to al-Amal Hospital.

The World Health Organization says the al-Amal hospital has ceased to function due to fighting, leaving just 10 of 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip partially operational. Another Khan Younis hospital, Nasser, was also surrounded by troops, Gazans said.

International law stipulates that while a medical facility is a protected site in conflict, it loses that status if it is used for military activity. Israel has offered evidence Hamas uses such facilities as cover for terror purposes and says the group plunders humanitarian aid to take supplies for its fighters, depriving the civilian population.

In central Gaza, Hagari said troops destroyed a 2.5-kilometer (1.5-mile) section of a Hamas tunnel that was part of an underground network that connected between northern and southern Gaza.

He said more than 30 tons of explosives were used in the overnight demolition. The military released footage of it blowing up the tunnel.

In the southern Gaza city of Rafah an airstrike killed several people, according to Hamas health officials.

Israel has promised to launch a ground invasion of Rafah, saying the city on the border with Egypt is the last remaining Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians at the site of a destroyed home from an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 27, 2024. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Over half of Gaza’s population has sought refuge in Rafah, many in makeshift tent camps, United Nations shelters and crowded apartments. The US says it shares Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas but a major assault on the city would be a mistake.

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, at least 32,552 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip since October 7.

The figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of the terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 combatants in Gaza since the war started, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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