As the Israel Defense Forces prepares to advance south into Rafah, ground operations continued in Khan Yunis on Tuesday, with Israeli forces eliminating dozens of terrorists in multiple engagements.
Over the past 24 hours, soldiers of the IDF’s 7th Brigade killed more than 30 Hamas fighters while destroying terror infrastructure in the south Gaza city, according to the military.
In western Khan Yunis, soldiers eliminated two terrorists moving under the cover of the civilian population after one of the terrorists was spotted aiming a gun at an Israeli military vehicle.
A terrorist cell transporting cargo via motorcycles was hit by an Israeli airstrike, according to the IDF. Israeli forces also directed attacks on two weapons depots located inside terrorists’ houses in the city.
Israeli forces have gained the upper hand over Hamas’s West Khan Yunis Battalion in southern Gaza following weeks of intense fighting, the IDF reported on Sunday morning.
The Givati Infantry Brigade “deepened the damage” to the enemy battalion and “strengthened its operational grip on the area,” killing around 100 terrorists in combined aerial and ground attacks involving firing tank shells, sniper ambushes and airstrikes “in dense spaces full of enemies,” according to the IDF.
Meanwhile, fighting continued in central Gaza over the past day, with soldiers from Israel’s Nahal Brigade eliminating about 10 terrorists who were spotted entering a building from which an anti-tank missile was fired at Israeli forces. The building was hit by an airstrike.
In making the case for moving troops to Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in the Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that 18 out of 24 Hamas battalions had been neutralized, but that conquering Rafah was essential to defeating the terror group.
Netanyahu’s statement came amid intense international pressure against the pending operation.
“Victory is within reach. We’re going to do it. We’re going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah, which is the last bastion, but we’re going to do it,” the premier told ABC News in an interview.
According to Israel, there are four Hamas battalions positioned in the city along the Egyptian border, the population of which has swelled to some 1.5 million, more than half of Gaza’s total of 2.3 million, after the Israel Defense Forces directed northern Gazans to a humanitarian zone there when fighting began in October.
The massive civilian population relocated there since the start of the ground war almost four months ago has alarmed Washington and Brussels, with Netanyahu attempting to allay concerns about noncombatants getting caught in the crossfire.
“In this, I agree with the Americans,” Netanyahu told “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” co-anchor Jonathan Karl. “We are going to do it [invade Rafah] while providing safe passage for the civilian population so they can leave.”
Regarding Hamas, however, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has warned that “every terrorist hiding in Rafah should know that his end will be like those in Khan Yunis, Gaza [City] or any other place in the Gaza Strip—surrender or death.”
However, no firm date has yet been established for the Rafah operation, with the Biden administration demanding that a “credible” plan be in place to protect Gaza’s civilian population before it commences.
During a visit to Khan Yunis on Saturday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi summarized the operation in the city as a “great success,” but cautioned that “we are far from finishing.”