IDF launches targeted killing operations against Gaza-based militants

Some of the Palestinian militants killed during operation ‘Guardian of the Walls’

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began a military campaign against militant groups in the Gaza Strip last Monday in response to a barrage of rockets fired by the military wing of Hamas, al-Qassam Brigades, against the city of Jerusalem earlier that day.

The group claimed responsibility for the attack on their Telegram channel immediately after the rockets were launched.

“Al-Qassam Brigades now directs a missile strike to the enemy in occupied Jerusalem in response to his crimes and aggression against the Holy City and his harassment of our people in Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Aqsa Mosque,” al-Qassam Brigades stated shortly after the attack.

The IDF’s campaign called “Guardian of the Walls” has focused on degrading the military capabilities and assets of al-Qassam Brigades and the military wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Saraya al-Quds. In conjunction with the Shin Bet, the IDF has successfully executed numerous targeted killing operations against leaders, commanders and low-level militants of several factions.

On Wednesday, the IDF targeted al-Qassam Brigades’ “Gaza Brigade” commander, Basem Issa, and several other militants who were with Issa.

“With all the signs of pride, fortitude and defiance, The Martyr Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades offer to the sons of our people and our nation everywhere the martyrdom of the Qassam Mujahid commander, Bassem Issa, commander of the Gaza Brigade in the al-Qassam Brigades, and a group of his brothers, the leaders and the mujahideen who rose during the occupation’s aggression against positions, capabilities and ambushes of the Resistance,” an al-Qassam Brigades statement said.

Commanders of Saraya al-Quds also shared a similar fate as their militant counterparts. On Tuesday, an IDF airstrike killed three during a meeting in the northern Gaza Strip.

“The al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, announced today, Tuesday, three leaders of the missile unit in the Gaza Brigade and the northern region, who rose to al-Ula after a cowardly assassination carried out by Zionist treachery planes in Gaza City,” the militant group stated.

A person with direct knowledge of an IDF intelligence briefing told FDD’s Long War Journal on Thursday that the estimated death toll of al-Qassam Brigades and Saraya al-Quds militants from the current fighting was approximately 200.

Most of the factions participating in the conflict have yet to officially disclose the current number of dead militants within their ranks. Al-Qassam Brigades, Saraya al-Quds and smaller factions like Humat al-Aqsa have disclosed some, but the count is expected to be much higher than the official numbers currently reported by Gaza factions.

As the fighting continues the IDF is likely to press on for several more days to achieve their objective of setting back the military capabilities of the Hamas-led militant groups before negotiating a ceasefire. However, al-Qassam Brigades and other groups may execute a significant attack during this time which would force the IDF to further expand its operation despite growing calls from the Biden administration to end the conflict.

Joe Truzman is an editor and senior research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian armed groups and non-state actors in the Middle East.

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