Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi approved plans for the continuation of Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, the military said on Sunday evening.
The decision by Halevi was announced following a situational assessment held on Saturday night at IDF Southern Command headquarters in Beersheva.
The military is currently focusing on fighting Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip but it is expected to also act against terrorist operatives in the southern part of the coastal enclave.
On Sunday night, the IDF and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) announced that troops operating in Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital discovered a 180-foot-long terror tunnel, buried over 30 feet underground.
“The tunnel shaft was uncovered in the area of the hospital underneath a shed alongside a vehicle containing numerous weapons including RPGs, explosives, and Kalashnikov rifles,” said the Israeli army in a statement.
According to the IDF, the entrance to the tunnel was outfitted with “various defense mechanisms” to prevent Israeli forces from entering, such as a blast door and a firing hole.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces continued to fight and deepen their gains in northern Gaza, with the military reporting Sunday morning that over the past 24 hours, the 933rd Nahal Infantry Brigade engaged Hamas terrorists on the outskirts of Jabalya.
A terror cell preparing to fire on troops from the roof of a residential building was eliminated in an air strike, according to the IDF. Weapons and military equipment were also found in residential buildings in the neighborhood.
Israeli Navy commandos assisted ground forces from their position off the Gaza coast, attacking Hamas targets “using thousands of munitions from the sea” and assisting ground forces “with fire and observation by opening axes, escorting with fire, thwarting land threats against our forces and providing cover for land missions from the sea,” the IDF said.
Also on Sunday, Israeli soldiers discovered 35 tunnel shafts and seized weapons in Gaza City. The shafts and tunnels were discovered during raids on the homes of Hamas officials in the upscale Rimal and Sheikh Ijlin neighborhoods. A number of Hamas terrorists were killed in the fighting.
Israeli forces simultaneously raided a Hamas “military” camp where ammunition depots and seven rocket launchers were uncovered.
Israel began “Operation Swords of Iron” on Oct. 7, when thousands of Hamas terrorists penetrated the Gaza border, rampaging across the northwestern Negev—murdering 1,200, wounding over 5,000 others and taking more than 240 hostages back to the Strip.
The Israel Security Agency and the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504 have detained more than 100 Hamas terrorists for questioning in Israel in recent days, including three members of Hamas’s “Nukhba” forces who took part in the Oct. 7 massacre.
During interrogations, the Hamas operatives provided intelligence officers with information on the locations of the terror group’s tunnels and weapon warehouses, the IDF and Shin Bet said in a joint statement.
Sirens sounded in northern Israel on Sunday morning as Hezbollah terrorists in Southern Lebanon fired dozens of mortar shells at communities in the Upper Galilee.
The IDF struck the source of fire in response. IAF fighter jets also attacked Hezbollah terror infrastructure in Lebanese territory.
Later on Sunday, the IDF downed at least two enemy UAVs near the border.
Israeli casualties mount
The names of two more slain soldiers were released for publication by the IDF on Sunday morning, followed by the announcement in the afternoon of three additional troops killed in action in Gaza.
Capt. (res.) Roy Bieber, 28, from Tzur Moshe, of the Special Operations Engineering Unit (Yahalom) fell in battle in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday.
Sgt. Binyamin Meir Arli, 21, from Beit Shemesh, of the 101st Battalion of the Paratroopers Brigade, was killed in action in northern Gaza on Saturday.
Maj. (res.) Yakir Biton, 34, from Jerusalem, a fighter in Battalion 8717 of the 261st Brigade, was killed in action in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday.
Sgt. Maj. Rani Tahan, 40, from Sde Nehemia, an operations sergeant in the 261st Reserve Infantry Brigade’s 8717th Battalion, was killed in action in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday.
Maj. (res.) Chen Yahalom, 35, from Kfar Azar in Ramat Gan, an officer in the 8159th Battalion of the Artillery Corps, was killed on Saturday. The circumstances of his death were not disclosed by the military.
On Sunday night, the IDF announced the deaths of two more soldiers during fighting in northern Gaza. The slain troops were named as Capt. (res.) Adir Portugal, 23, an officer in the Givati Infantry Brigade’s Shaked Battalion, from Mazkeret Batya, and Staff Sgt. Gal Mishaelof, 21, a soldier in the Givati Infantry Brigade’s Tzabar Battalion, from Modi’in.
At least 67 soldiers have been killed in action in Gaza, at the Lebanon border and in Judea and Samaria since the start of the Gaza ground operation on Oct. 27; 383 Israeli soldiers have died since the war started on Oct. 7.