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IDF intensifies attacks on Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis

Israeli forces find terrorists hiding among women and children waving a white flag • Tunnel shaft located in school • IDF's Gaza death toll rises to 175.

Israeli forces conducting ground operations in the Gaza Strip, Jan. 3, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israeli forces conducting ground operations in the Gaza Strip, Jan. 3, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Sirens sounded in Israeli communities near Gaza on Wednesday morning as the IDF intensified its attacks on the Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis in the southern Strip.

The Israeli Air Force struck terrorist targets in the center of the city overnight Tuesday, and attacks were also carried out in the Bureij, Nuseirat and Maghazi camps as well as in Rafah, according to Palestinian sources.

During Givati Brigade operations in Khan Yunis in recent days, terrorists who participated in the Oct. 7 mass murder in the northwestern Negev surrendered to Israel Defense Forces soldiers, the military said on Tuesday night.

Last week, Givati troops fighting in Bani Suheila, east of Khan Yunis, identified several suspicious individuals hiding among women and children marching with a white flag and arrested them. During questioning carried out by the Military Intelligence Directorate’s 504 Unit, it was determined that the suspects were terrorists, some of whom participated in the Oct. 7 massacre.

IDF finds tunnel shaft in Gaza school

Israeli soldiers in Gaza discovered a tunnel shaft located inside a school, the army said on Wednesday.

The tunnel was discovered by the 5th Brigade’s combat team in the southern Gaza town of Khuza’a (aka Khirbat Ikhzaa). The forces also found photos of weapons geared for children. A photo released by the IDF showed mortars, grenades and bullets inside the school.

During the military operation in Khuza’a, forces also raided Hamas observation posts and positions where terrorist squads fired anti-tank rockets.

Meanwhile, in Khan Yunis, ground forces directed an airstrike on a terrorist squad that was trying to attach a bomb to a tank. Soldiers also seized weapons and a safe containing hundreds of thousands of shekels inside the home of a member of Hamas’s Nukhba commando unit.

Also in Khan Yunis, an Israeli fighter jet struck a munitions production complex belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In the Daraj Tuffah area of Gaza City, soldiers eliminated a terrorist squad operating aerial drones to observe the Israeli forces.

IDF soldier slain in northern Gaza

The IDF released for publication on Wednesday that Sgt. First Class Meiron Moshe Gersch, 21, of the Combat Engineering Corps’ Yahalom unit, from Petah Tikva, was killed in action in northern Gaza on Tuesday.

Sgt. First Class Meiron Moshe Gersch, 21, of the Combat Engineering Corps’ Yahalom unit, from Petah Tikva. Credit: IDF.

Since the start of ground operations in the Gaza Strip on Oct. 27, 175 soldiers have been killed, and 509 in total since the war began on Oct. 7.

High alert

The Israel Defense Forces is on a “very high state of alert in all arenas,” on defense and offense, and is prepared for any scenario, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari stated on Tuesday night, soon after reports said Hamas deputy political bureau chief Saleh al-Arouri was killed in a blast in a Beirut apartment.

“The most important thing to say this evening is that we remain focused on fighting Hamas. In Gaza, our forces continue to fight, with a focus on Khan Yunis, over and underground, killing terrorists and destroying infrastructure,” said Hagari.

Earlier on Tuesday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that the IDF has destroyed 12 Hamas battalions in the northern Gaza Strip, speaking during a visit to meet with Israeli forces there.

Speaking from the Salah al-Din Road in Gaza that is being used as a humanitarian evacuation corridor, Gallant indicated that the war will soon be shifting phases but is far from ending.

“You are on the corridor—the meaning of this is that from both sides of you will soon be actions of a different kind. From the north, we have destroyed 12 battalions of Hamas. It’s not that all the terrorists are dead, but the framework in which someone can lift binoculars, report back, mortars fall and then the [Hamas] commander sends a maneuvering force, it doesn’t exist. There are still terrorists on the order of a few thousand out of 15,000 or 18,000 that were in the sector,” said Gallant.

Going forward, this means that in northern Gaza, the IDF will focus on fire strikes, entering areas in a targeted manner and special operations. If necessary, he said, “we will hold for a period of time [when] we will decide in the field. But the goal is to exhaust the enemy, to kill him and to create a reality in which we control the territory.”

In southern Gaza, the reality is very different, he stressed to the soldiers, noting that the IDF is currently isolating the Khan Yunis area. The IDF’s actions are a reflection of the latest assessments, Gallant said, adding that the impression that the war is coming to an end is unfounded.

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