Seth Frantzman is reporting from Israel.
The IDF continued to eliminate Hamas commanders in northern Gaza and increased operations in Khan Yunis on Wednesday. After 60 days of war, the IDF is also succeeding in a rapidly expanding offensive in the southern Gaza Strip. The multi-front war in Gaza has provided some of the most intense fighting and illustrated how the IDF can coordinate numerous forces in several operations at the same time.
The IDF provided new details about the Hamas brigades responsible for northern Gaza. According to an IDF statement Tuesday evening, the IDF eliminated the commander of the northern Hamas brigade. The commander was named Ahmed Al-Ghandoor, and the IDF also said they killed the Deputy Brigade Commander, Wael Rajab.
“Al-Ghandoor was responsible for directing and managing all terrorist operations of Hamas in the Northern Gaza Strip area,” the IDF said. In addition, the IDF says it has killed the Hamas commanders of the Beit Lahiya Battalion and the Central Jabalya Battalion, two units key to defending Jabalya, which is currently under assault by IDF troops. The IDF also eliminated commanders of the Gaza City Brigade. These included commanders of the Tsabra, Shati, Darj Tapeh and Shejaiya battalions. The Darj Tapeh battalion is sometimes spelled Daraj Tuppah battalion, the same unit was a target of repeated strikes throughout October.
Hamas battalions in northern Gaza continue to suffer significant blows. The Shati battalion lost another stronghold on Tuesday, the IDF said. The Israel Air Force carried out airstrikes on 250 terror targets overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday. “IDF ground troops directed an IDF fighter jet to strike two rocket launchers from which terrorists fired a barrage of rockets toward central Israel yesterday (Tuesday). In addition, the troops directed an IAF aircraft to strike in the area of Deir al-Balah. During these strikes, terrorists from the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations were eliminated, and several terrorist infrastructures were destroyed,” the IDF said. The focus on the rocket launch site is important because even though Hamas has lost control of swaths of Gaza, it continued to fire rockets at Israel. On Wednesday, rockets targeted areas north of Gaza and also communities in the Negev near Beersheba.
The IDF found a large weapon depot in Gaza this week, according to a video and an IDF statement on Wednesday. “The depot contained hundreds of RPG missiles and launchers of various types, dozens of anti-tank missiles, dozens of explosive devices, long-range missiles aimed at central Israel, dozens of grenades and UAVs.” Rocket fire from Gaza has been significantly reduced in the five days since fighting resumed on Dec. 1. The discovery of this weapons depot, along with other rocket launchers and weapons over the last five weeks of fighting on the ground, has revealed the extent of Hamas weapons stockpiled in Gaza over the last decade and a half since the group took over the Gaza strip.
The IDF also revealed on Wednesday that its 98th Division is carrying out operations in Khan Yunis. Israel has targeted Khan Yunis in the last several days. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is from Khan Yunis. Since the renewal of fighting, the IDF had not provided details on which units were involved in battles in Khan Yunis. Now it says that the 98th, which includes the Commando Unit and other special forces, has “located approximately 30 tunnel shafts and destroyed them” in Khan Yunis. The IDF said it has destroyed terrorist infrastructure in Khan Yunis and says that Hamas military and political leadership are in the city. Sinwar’s home is also in the city.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referenced targeting Sinwar’s home in the operation. “Last night, I said that our forces could go anywhere in the Gaza Strip. They are currently surrounding Sinwar’s house. His home is not his castle, and he can flee, but it is only a matter of time until we find him,” he said on Wednesday. Netanyahu also said Israel was pressing the Red Cross to visit the 138 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. “I spoke with the President of the Red Cross again today and I told her to turn to Qatar, since it has been proven that they have leverage over Hamas, and demand Red Cross visits with our hostages and, of course, the providing of medicines for them,” he said, according to a statement from the Government Press Office.
Wednesday also saw new developments on other fronts in Israel. The Houthis fired a missile at Israel, which was intercepted by the Arrow air defense system. The USS Mason also intercepted a drone in the Red Sea. Iran-backed threats have escalated this week from the Houthis, and these were the latest incidents since the group attacked several ships earlier in the week. Saudi Arabia has urged U.S. restraint regarding the Houthi escalation in the Red Sea.
Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also met with local leaders of Israeli towns along the northern border. Israel has evacuated roughly 40 of these communities amid concerns about Hezbollah carrying out an October 7-style attack similar to the Hamas attack, which killed 1,200 people. Hezbollah has carried out daily smaller attacks on the northern border since Oct. 7. Yoav Gallant asserted that Hezbollah needed to be moved away from the border. The report about Gallant’s comments comes amid a report that the U.S. is also exploring a border agreement between Israel and Lebanon. Israel continued training reservist units that have been stationed on the northern border this week. The training involves infantry, tanks, and engineers working together to prepare for scenarios they might face if fighting escalates.
In the West Bank, the IDF carried out a raid in Jenin overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, uncovering tunnel shafts and weapons. The discovery of tunnels in the West Bank represents a new threat. It may point to Iranian-backed groups, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad, seeking to turn Jenin into a kind of new threat, similar to Gaza. A printing press supporting Hamas was also raided in an area in the southern West Bank. Hamas has enjoyed increased support in the West Bank since the pause in fighting, when Israel released prisoners in exchange for Hamas releasing hostages. However, Israel has also carried out nightly raids in the West Bank, detaining Hamas operatives, and targeting Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad.