IDF faces tough battles in Gaza City neighborhoods

An Iron Dome battery located in southern Israel fires an interceptor at a target. (Israel Ministry of Defense)

Israel Defense Forces infantry faced a tough battle in the Gaza neighborhood of Shujaiya between December 12 and 13 as ten IDF soldiers were killed, including the commander of the Golani brigade’s 13th battalion, Lt. Col Tomer Grinberg. Grinberg had been interviewed several times in the wake of the Hamas October 7 attack on Israel. Golani, one of Israel’s infantry brigades, suffered high casualties on October 7 and has played a key role in operations in Gaza.

The heavy losses in Shujaiya make the battle one of the costliest since the Israel launched its ground maneuver in Gaza. Israel has lost 115 IDF soldiers in operations in Gaza and 444 total since the war began. Several hundred soldiers were killed in the first few days of fighting during and after the surprise attack on October 7. The IDF said on Wednesday, December 13 that Israeli forces are “operating deep” in Shujaiya and that “the troops have been targeting terrorist infrastructure and operatives in the Shujaiya Kasbah.” This area of the neighborhood is heavily built up and Hamas terrorists are still operating out of tunnels, the IDF said. “This is an advanced stage of our efforts to clear the area of Hamas terrorists and dismantle its capabilities.”

The soldiers were killed while operating in a residential building. Members of Hamas’ Shujaiya battalion continue to pose a threat in this area, even though they have suffered heavy losses over the last month. The battalion is one of 24 Hamas battalions, each of which has hundreds of fighters. The IDF estimates that up to 350 terrorists have been killed in battles in Shujaiya, some of the estimated 7,000 terrorists killed in Gaza. The IDF continues to find weapons such as RPGs and sniper rifles in this area.

In addition, the IDF said on December 13 that it had uncovered terrorist infrastructure near a school in Khan Yunis. “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, and additional observation and control centers belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization.” Terrorists also fired at the IDF from the school, and the IDF released a video showing the aftermath of the gunfight with terrorists. In the video, terrorist casualties are seen amidst walls adorned with drawings and cartoons indicating the building is a school.

Hamas has used civilian areas for cover in Khan Yunis and Shujaiya. The IDF also said that 116 rockets were fired from a designated humanitarian zone in Gaza. This area is near the sea in the southern Gaza strip. The IDF estimates around 1.4 million people in Gaza have fled areas of fighting since the war began. Some have gone to this humanitarian zone. “Hamas continues to use the humanitarian zone to carry out terrorist activities, further endangering the lives of civilians in Gaza and the State of Israel,” the IDF said.

Israel faced threats on two other fronts this week. In northern Israel, Hezbollah continued to carry out attacks on December 13. The group targeted Rosh HaNikra, a community on Mediterranean and along the border of Lebanon in northern Israel. The IDF responded to the Hezbollah attacks with strikes inside Lebanon. The IDF also responded to rocket fire from Syria aimed at Israel. “IDF aircraft and tanks struck a number of military posts and military infrastructure belonging to the Syrian Army in Syrian territory,” the IDF said.

In southern Israel, the Iran-backed Houthi threats to shipping also led to the deployment of another naval ship in the Red Sea, as Israel’s president slammed the Houthis for their attacks. “The Houthis have crossed a red line in the Red Sea,” Israel’s President Isaac Herzog said. “The US-led international activities against the Houthi terror-pirates must be bolstered and strengthened in the form of a truly international coalition,” he noted. He called for the international community to act in the wake of numerous attacks by the Houthis on ships in the Red Sea. The Houthis have also targeted Israel with missiles and drones since mid-October.

As part of Israel’s messaging about its defense preparations near the Red Sea, the Israel Ministry of Defense released new images of Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system in southern Israel. Since October, Israel has used its Arrow 3, an air defense missile that intercepts long-range ballistic missiles, and F-35s to intercept threats from Yemen. The Ministry of Defense said on December 13 that the Iron Dome has also had recent successful interceptions in southern Israel.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 

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