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IDF official: 350 Hamas operatives killed in Shujai’yya since Dec. 1

The Israeli military is determined to dismantle the Gaza tunnel system, which the terrorist organization has spent 16 years building; more than 50% of Israeli Air Force jets are on standby for the northern threat.

Israeli Defense Forces at a staging area before entering the Gaza Strip as part of a military operation on Dec. 13, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Israeli Defense Forces at a staging area before entering the Gaza Strip as part of a military operation on Dec. 13, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

The Israel Defense Forces has killed as many as 350 Hamas terrorists in Shujai’yya since the end of the operational pause on Dec. 1, an Israeli military official assessed on Wednesday, a day after 10 IDF soldiers and officers fell in battle in the northern Gazan district.

Troops in the hardline Hamas area of Shujai’yya are going “alley to alley, door to door, access point to access point,” engaging terrorists, said the source, adding that the war is expected to continue in this manner.

Shujai’yya is one of Hamas’s largest battalions, and the IDF has rained down enormous blows on it, the official said. While he could not rule out the appearance of new terrorists in the area, he said that “we are overwhelming in our presence and destruction of tunnel access points. As we move forward, we move every day towards our goals.”

Also on Wednesday, Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak announced that one of its residents, Tal Chaimi, who was taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, was murdered in captivity. His body remains in Hamas’s hands, said the kibbutz.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated on Wednesday: “A few hundred meters separate Nahal Oz and Shujai’yya. Just as Battalion 13 [which lost its commander Lt. Col. Tomer Grinberg and several soldiers in battle on Tuesday] didn’t leave Nahal Oz until they killed every [invading] terrorist, so, too, will they stay in Shaja’yya until they destroy every terrorist.”

Gallant said that the IDF is fighting in areas that have seen years of preparation and trap-building by Hamas, adding that “Gaza turned out to be the biggest terror base in the world,” with mosques, schools and hospitals all used to camouflage their operations—all geared to launch new killing sprees like the one on Oct. 7 if it could.

“The IDF won’t let them do that,” Gallant vowed. “Our goal is to finish this mission—and to complete this righteous task of dismantling Hamas and bringing back hostages—for our future and the future of our children in this land,” he said, adding that this was also being done for the future of the children of the IDF’s fallen fighters.

“IDF soldiers are striking Hamas all over Gaza; they have many achievements and are on their way to obtaining victory over this evil organization,” said the defense minister.

Addressing the issue of tunnels, the IDF official said the military has spent a decade developing a broad spectrum of techniques to deal with this threat, adding that “from our perspective, the tunnels need to go. It’s the most expensive construction project in Gaza, lasting 16 years, and we are determined to dismantle it.”

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Wednesday that the Jewish state mourns the loss of 10 IDF soldiers and officers, recounting how members of the Golani Brigade and 669 unit members rushed in to rescue a force under fire in Shujai’yya. Tens of Israeli Air Force strikes occurred during this incident to support ground forces.

‘A painful testimony to the spirit of commanders’

“The falling of senior Golani commanders is a painful testimony to the spirit of commanders—always the first to rescue [others]. Our heart is with the families of all IDF fallen personnel at their most difficult hour,” he said.

“The more we operate in a widespread manner, the more engagements there are, and to my sorrow, more casualties. This has led to many Hamas terrorists killed and many surrenders. We see this every day in Jabalia, Shuja’iyya and Khan Yunis,” Hagari said.

“There is no change in our policy of firepower. Every division brigade and battalion receives air support before it enters into a new place. The firepower envelope comes with every entry. In recent days, IAF jets struck tunnels and firing positions,” he affirmed.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at Funeral
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant comforts family and friends of Col. Asaf Hamami, who was killed in battle in the Gaza Strip, at the soldier’s funeral in the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv, Dec. 4, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

The combined ground fighting with IAF attacks allows the IDF to “dismantle terror infrastructure in a fundamental manner,” so that it will in the future be able to invite Israeli residents back to the south with the knowledge that the terror threat to them is gone. This determination, Hagari vowed, “will also bring back hostages.”

He said that “the goal is to reach a stage where most terror infrastructure and operatives are destroyed or surrender. We will do this for as long as it takes, to clean out the area from terrorism, so that we can tell southern communities that the terror threat has been neutralized.”

Also on Wednesday, the IDF said it conducted a targeted raid against terrorists operating inside a school in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

“During the operation, the troops engaged with a terrorist cell that fired at the troops with firearms and RPG-style anti-tank missiles. The troops killed the terrorists during the battle,” the military stated.

In the area of the school, the troops located long-range rockets and an underground combat compound. Furthermore, IDF troops directed an IAF strike on the compound, as well as on additional observation and control centers belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization.

‘Our high level of alert’

Since the start of the war, Some 4,000 trucks with 70,000 tons of medical, food and shelter supplies have entered Gaza from Rafah, the official said, adding that Kerem Shalom Crossing is now also open for the inspection of trucks.

Since designating the Al-Masawi area of southern Gaza a humanitarian zone for civilians in southern Gaza, 116 rockets have been fired from it at Israel, of which 38 fell short in Gaza, the official said.

In the north on Wednesday, following a siren that sounded in Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra, rocket launches from Lebanon towards Israel were identified. The rockets fell inside Lebanon, according to the military. Several other launches from Lebanon towards locations in northern Israel were also identified.

Israeli tanks and fighter jets struck Hezbollah terror targets in Southern Lebanon earlier on Wednesday. IDF soldiers also struck a number of terrorist cells in different locations along the Lebanese border, the military said.

Since the start of the war, the IDF has struck more than 110 terror squads in Lebanon, said Hagari.

Some 50 percent of IAF jets with munitions are ready for the north, said Hagari, who added that “this is our high level of alert.”

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