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Times Of Israel
Times Of Israel
6 Jan 2024


NextImg:3 months into war, IDF says it’s dismantled Hamas ‘military framework’ in north Gaza

On the eve of the three-month mark of the Israel-Hamas war, the Israel Defense Forces said Saturday evening it had completed the dismantlement of Hamas’s “military framework” in the northern Gaza Strip.

Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said at a press conference that the military was now focused on dismantling Hamas in central and southern Gaza.

Saturday also saw the IDF and Shin Bet say that the commander of Hamas’s Nuseirat battalion in central Gaza, Ismail Siraj, and his deputy, Ahmed Wahaba, were killed in an airstrike in the Strip. The battalion was responsible for the attacks on Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7 and the massacres that took place there and in other border communities.

The IDF also announced the death of an officer killed during fighting in the northern Gaza Strip over the weekend, bringing the toll of slain troops since the start of the ground offensive against Hamas to 176.

He was named as Lt. Col. Roee Yohay Yosef Mordechay, 31, a commander at the Nahal Brigade’s training base, from Tel Aviv. Mordechay had been tapped to be the next commander of Nahal’s 50th Battalion before he was killed.

Another soldier of the Nahal Brigade’s 931st Battalion was seriously wounded in the same battle, the IDF said.

Lt. Col. Roee Yohay Yosef Mordechay. (Israel Defense Forces)

At his press conference, Hagari said that battles and sporadic rocket fire could still occur in northern Gaza, but the terror group’s infrastructure was out of action and could no longer carry out large-scale attacks.

He noted that towns in central Gaza were “dense and full of terrorists,” while Khan Younis in the south has an “underground city of branching tunnels.”

“There are no shortcuts when it comes to fighting terror,” Hagari said. “We attacked, and will continue to attack, and continue to deepen the achievement in these areas, but it takes time,” Hagari said.

“It will take time. The fighting will continue throughout 2024. We are working according to a plan to achieve the goals of the war: to dismantle Hamas in the center and south, and continue all efforts, intelligence and operational, and military pressure, to return the hostages,” Hagari said.

He said at the same time the IDF was building new defenses along the Gaza border to allow residents displaced since October 7 to return to their homes.

Hagari also revealed a photo of Mohammed Deif, the commander of Hamas’s military wing. The photo was among some 70 million digital files recovered by the IDF in Gaza, he said.

An undated photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on January 6, 2024, shows Muhammed Deif (R), the commander of the Hamas terror group’s military wing. (Israel Defense Forces)

In announcing the killing of Siraj and Wahaba in Nuseirat, the army and Shin Bet said Siraj previously served as a commander of a company in Hamas’s Nukhba commando force, and was also involved in manufacturing rockets. Wahaba, the deputy, was appointed to the role after the previous Nuseirat battalion deputy commander was killed by the IDF in the first weeks of the war.

Beyond the October 7 massacres, the IDF said the Nuseirat battalion had also been involved in firing anti-tank missiles and operating drones against troops operating in Gaza in recent months.

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Earlier Saturday, the military published footage of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and the head of the Shin Bet security agency Ronen Bar touring a Hamas tunnel network under southern Gaza’s Khan Younis the previous day.

Halevi and Bar were joined by the head of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman; the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva; and the commander of the 98th Division, Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus.

The military believes Hamas’s leadership, including Yahya Sinwar, are hiding underground in the southern Gaza Strip.

The army also released new footage of the elite Egoz commando unit operating in southern Gaza, where it said troops raided the home of Hamas’s east Khan Younis battalion commander in the town of Bani Suheila and battled gunmen in a school.

The IDF said troops killed three gunmen during a battle in the school. On their bodies, it said, forces found RPGs and significant intelligence about Hamas’s Khan Younis brigade.

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In a residence in the area, Egoz soldiers found a cache of weapons used by Hamas operatives, the IDF said.

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Some of the weapons were found inside a bedroom, the IDF said, alongside a child’s puzzle of an inciteful image against Israel.

A children’s jigsaw puzzle with the caption ‘Liberate Palestine’ featuring armed kids in an inciting image against Israel, found by troops in a Khan Younis home. Photo released January 6, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

The army also said troops found military equipment belonging to Nukhba forces in a clinic in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, stashed inside bags marked with the logo of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA. As one of the main organizations providing aid to the Gaza Strip, there have been previous reports of the aid agency’s packaging apparently being repurposed by the terror group.

The IDF said RPGs, Kalashnikov-type weapons and ammunition were found in a nearby building.

In addition, the military said strikes were carried out on a number of terror cells and destroyed a number of tunnel shafts in the Khan Younis area.

Furthermore, troops located a warehouse containing dozens of Kalashnikovs, over a hundred cartridges, remote-activated charges and a number of RPGs. Forces destroyed the warehouse.

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Last week, it was reported Israel is hoping to push UNRWA out of the Gaza Strip after the war. The outlet cited a high-level and classified Foreign Ministry report that recommends a number of stages to the move, including a comprehensive report on alleged UNRWA cooperation between Hamas, which rules Gaza, and the UN body that provides welfare and humanitarian services in the Strip.