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IDF forces destroy ‘Palestine Square’ amid intense battles in Gaza

Prominent Hamas financier killed in Israeli strike • Two more Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza • Hamas releases hostage video • Arab sources: Terror group rejects Israeli prisoner-exchange proposal.

Israeli soldiers pictured just before demolishing a Hamas monument in "Palestine Square," the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, Dec. 18, 2023. Credit: IDF.
Israeli soldiers pictured just before demolishing a Hamas monument in "Palestine Square," the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, Dec. 18, 2023. Credit: IDF.

Israeli soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s 13th Battalion and the 188th Armored Brigade on Monday destroyed “Palestine Square” in Gaza City’s Shejaia neighborhood, including smashing a Hamas statue commemorating the killing of Golani soldiers during the 2014 Gaza war.

“We are here, the 13th Battalion, at the place where the terrorist organization Hamas erected a statue glorifying the disaster that happened to the battalion in ‘[Operation] Protective Edge.’ We are sending a clear message to Hamas: Wherever such a statue is erected, we will come and destroy it,” said Lt. Col. Yuval Mazoz, the new commander of the 13th Battalion.

Mazoz replaced Lt. Col. Tomer Grinberg, who was killed in a Hamas ambush in Shejaia on Dec. 12 along with eight other soldiers in the deadliest day for Israeli forces since the start of ground operations in Gaza on Oct. 27.

During the 2014 war, seven Golani soldiers were killed when their armored personnel carrier (APC) was hit, including Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose body was captured by Hamas and is still being held in Gaza.

Hamas erected a statue glorifying the attack, which included a clenched fist pushing through an APC holding three dog tags, including one with the name of Shaul.

The captured square is where the terror group paraded released hostages several weeks ago.

Prominent Hamas financier killed in Israeli strike

Subhi Ferwana, a prominent Hamas financier, was killed in an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Strip, the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) announced on Tuesday.

“Ferwana was a prominent financier who, together with his brother, was involved in the transfer of tens of millions of dollars to the Hamas terrorist organization and its military wing in the Gaza Strip through their money exchange company, ‘Hamsat,’ over the past few years,” the statement read.

According to the Israeli military, this money was used to finance Hamas’s war activities, including the payment of salaries to terrorists during the fighting.

“Hamas uses financiers in order to receive the funds that are transferred to the terrorist organization from Iran and various fundraising sources abroad” while evading the international financial system, the statement concluded.

Israeli forces continue to operate throughout Gaza

Israeli soldiers conducted raids over the past day on terror targets in the Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis in the southern Strip, the IDF said on Tuesday morning.

Troops killed a terrorist there who had launched anti-tank missiles at them.

Additionally, soldiers located a weapons storage facility containing explosive devices, weapons, grenades and military vests.

An explosive device was found planted in a medical clinic in Shejaia, near a school, according to the IDF. Weapons, including AK-47s, vests and ammunition were also found.

IDF troops also destroyed a tunnel shaft near the coastline in the southern Strip. Following the explosion, a large number of terrorists fled to a compound subsequently hit by an Israeli Air Force fighter jet.

The Israeli Navy also continued to strike terror targets across the Gaza Strip.

Soldiers operating in the Jabalia area of northern Gaza located Hamas sites for the production and storage of munitions, including missiles, the IDF said on Tuesday afternoon.

As part of the activity, soldiers raided the homes of Hamas operatives. In addition to the weapons, Israeli forces also seized maps which included what the military said was a significant tunnel route, intelligence findings and photos of armed children dressed in Hamas uniforms.

During a search of one building, hundreds of missiles and a truck designed for transporting the launchers was found.

Two more soldiers slain in Gaza

The IDF released for publication the names of two more soldiers killed in action in northern Gaza on Monday—Sgt. Maj. (res.) Daniel Yacov Ben Harosh, 31, from Alon; and Capt. (res.) Rotem Yosef Levy, 24, from Orani.

At least 131 soldiers have been killed in action in Gaza since the start of the IDF ground operation on Oct. 27; 463 Israeli soldiers have died since the war began on Oct. 7.

Hamas releases propaganda video of three hostages

Hamas on Monday published an undated video of three elderly male Israeli hostages kidnapped by the terror group during the Oct. 7 massacre.

The three are identified as Chaim Peri, 79, Amiram Cooper, 84, and Yoram Metzger, 80, all of Kibbutz Nir Oz.

Peri’s daughter, Noam, told Army Radio on Tuesday that it was “very emotional” to see her dad after 73 days.

“But we are really worried. This doesn’t change what we have been saying the whole time: They won’t last very long there. They don’t have time, every day in captivity endangers their lives,” she said, according to the Times of Israel.

Hamas rejects Israeli hostage-for-terrorist deal

Hamas has rejected an Israeli proposal for another hostage-for-terrorist agreement, an Egyptian source told the Qatari-owned newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

The Israeli proposal reportedly included the release of female soldiers and some elderly men held hostage in Gaza as a first step. The source said that “the Israeli proposal included the possibility of releasing senior leaders and prominent names from Hamas who spent long periods in Israeli prisons.”

The source also said Hamas’s “military wing” had instructed the terror group’s political leadership to reject any proposal that doesn’t include a ceasefire first. According to the source, Hamas is also demanding that any future negotiations include leaders from other Palestinian terrorist factions.

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