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IDF hits 200 Hamas terror targets as Gaza ground op expands

Israeli airstrike kills Shati Battalion commander • Three IDF soldiers killed in Gaza • Hamas hostage murdered in captivity • Senior U.S. delegation heading to Israel.

Israeli Defense Forces during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip on Dec. 3, 2023. Credit: IDF.
Israeli Defense Forces during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip on Dec. 3, 2023. Credit: IDF.

Israeli forces continued to expand ground operations in the Gaza Strip overnight Sunday, striking some 200 Hamas terror targets.

Arab and Israeli media reported on IDF attacks throughout the Gaza Strip overnight Sunday and into the early hours of Monday, including an extensive operation in the southern Gaza Strip near Rafah and Khan Yunis, and in the north in Shejaiya as well as in the Tuffah neighborhood, east of Gaza City.

The IDF Negev Brigade destroyed terrorist infrastructure set up in a school in Beit Hanoun that was used to attack Israeli forces. Two tunnel shafts were located in the school complex, one of which included an area for cargo and weapons.

On Sunday, an Israeli airstrike killed Shati Battalion commander Haitham Khawajiri, one of the Hamas commanders responsible for the Oct. 7 massacre.

In addition to directing raids during the Oct. 7 terror assault on southern Israel, the IDF said that Khawajiri “secured Hamas terrorist activity in the Shifa Hospital and was in command of Hamas’s forces fighting against IDF soldiers in the Shati area. He was also responsible for carrying out numerous acts of terror against Israelis.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said earlier on Sunday that the IDF had begun its ground offensive in the southern section of the Strip, north of the city of Khan Yunis, while IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in his daily press conference on Sunday evening that the military was expanding the ground offensive to “all areas” of the enclave.

Three fallen soldiers named

The IDF on Monday released for publication the names of three more soldiers killed in Gaza.

Sgt. Maj. (res.) Neriya Shaer, 36, from Yavneh, of Battalion 6655, Brigade 55, fell on Sunday in battle in the center of the Gaza Strip.

Sgt. First Class (res.) Ben Zussman, 22 , from Jerusalem, of the reconnaissance department of the 601st Battalion, 401st Brigade, Combat Engineer Corps, was killed on Sunday in a battle in the northern Gaza Strip.

Sgt. Binyamin Yehoshua Needham, 19, from Zichron Yaakov, of the 601st Battalion, 401st Brigade, Combat Engineer Corps, was killed Sunday in a battle in the northern Gaza Strip.

At least 85 IDF soldiers have been killed in action in Gaza, at the Lebanon border and in Judea and Samaria since the start of the IDF ground operation in Gaza on Oct. 27; 401 Israeli soldiers have died since the war started on Oct. 7.

Israeli hostage killed in Gaza

The family of Yonatan Samerano, 21, of Tel Aviv, have been informed of his murder in captivity by Hamas.

Samerano was kidnapped from the Nova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im on Oct. 7.

Hamas kidnapped some 240 people during its assault on the northwestern Negev, in which thousands of heavily armed terrorists stormed across the border, murdering 1,200 people and wounding over 5,000 others.

A total of 136 hostages are still being held in Gaza. During a ceasefire which began on Nov. 24 and ended on Dec. 1, 84 children and women, along with 24 foreign nationals, were released by Hamas.

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani “about ongoing efforts to facilitate the safe return of all hostages and further increase levels of aid to civilians in Gaza.”

According to Israeli media reports, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, is expected to visit Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Monday to discuss the Red Cross gaining access to the hostages still held by Hamas.

Senior U.S. delegation heading to Israel to discuss post-war Gaza

A senior delegation of Biden administration officials was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday to discuss the plans for Gaza after Hamas is defeated, the White House said.

The delegation includes U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s national security adviser Phil Gordon and Ilan Goldenberg, Harris’s Mideast adviser.

Israeli media reported that the Americans are expected to meet with Israeli National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer. They are also scheduled to pay a visit to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

While there has been some speculation that the P.A. might play a role in Gaza after the defeat of Hamas, Israel opposes the idea, and White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Sunday that the P.A. is currently unfit to govern the Gaza Strip.

John Kirby
John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council of the White House, during a press briefing on Oct. 3, 2023 at the White House. Credit: Oliver Contreras/White House.

During an interview with ABC “This Week,” anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Kirby about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the P.A. playing any future role in Gaza due to its support for terrorism and promotion of Jew-hatred.

“What [Netanyahu] said was right now you’ve got an unreformed P.A. And that’s unacceptable to him. I would tell you that’s unacceptable to us too. We don’t believe the P.A. is in a position right now to be in—a credible control of governance in Gaza,” said Kirby.

He added that the administration wants a “reformed and revitalized Palestinian Authority” helping to govern the Strip.

Harris speaks with Herzog, Abbas

The White House said that the vice president spoke on the phone with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Abbas overnight Sunday during her flight back to Washington from Dubai, where she attended the COP28 climate conference.

While in the UAE, Harris spoke with several Arab leaders about the Israel-Hamas war and plans for a post-war Gaza Strip. She also took a critical stance toward Israel’s prosecution of the war against Hamas.

“Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating,” Harris said on Saturday in Dubai.

On the call with Herzog, Harris “reiterated the strong U.S. support for Israel’s right to self-defense” and expressed concerns about “extreme settler violence” in Judea and Samaria.

Harris also “reiterated the importance of planning for the day after the fighting ends in Gaza, and … underscored our commitment to a two-state solution.”

In the call with Abbas, Harris called “for a unified West Bank and Gaza under a revitalized Palestinian Authority.”

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