Israeli forces return to northern Gaza’s Shejaiya neighborhood in surprise raid

IDF Nahal Brigade operates in southern Gaza
Israeli soldiers from the Nahal Brigade operate in southern Gaza on June 27. (IDF photo)

The Israel Defense Forces launched a new raid into northern Gaza’s Shejaiya neighborhood on June 27. The surprise offensive is designed to uproot Hamas terrorists and other terrorist elements that have returned to the area over the last several months. Shejaiya has long been a center of Hamas activity, and the IDF has clashed with the group in this neighborhood in previous wars.

The IDF first launched its ground offensive targeting Hamas in northern Gaza in late October in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. After initial moves to cut off around a dozen Hamas battalions in Gaza’s north from the rest of Gaza, the IDF entered areas such as Shejaiya, Jabaliya, Shati, and additional neighborhoods around Gaza City. In December, the IDF’s Golani Brigade and other units went into Shejaiya and fought Hamas in a series of difficult battles. The IDF left after these clashes when it appeared the Hamas units had been defeated. The last engagements between the IDF and terrorists in Shejaiya were in April.

The tactic of clearing areas and withdrawing has been common throughout northern Gaza, and the IDF has also re-entered many of these areas. It carried out three raids in Zaytun, at least two raids into the Shati camp, and twice operated in Jabaliya.

The IDF’s 98th Division is leading the current raid in Shejaiya. The division, which includes commando units, paratroopers, and tanks, also conducted a three-week raid in Jabaliya on May 31. Over the last month, the 98th Division briefly took part in a raid on Nuseirat in central Gaza, where four hostages were freed. Therefore, this unit is well placed to lead the way into Shujaiya because of its recent experience conducting precision raids.

On June 28, the IDF said that “over the past day, following intelligence indicating the presence of terrorists and terrorist infrastructure in the area of Shejaiya in the northern Gaza Strip, IDF troops began activity in the area, both above and below ground.”

The IDF called on residents of the area to evacuate south along Salah al-Din Road, a major thoroughfare that links Gaza City with southern Gaza. Asking civilians to leave an area before operations begin is a standard IDF tactic. However, over time, the IDF has also conducted raids while simultaneously asking people to depart, apparently so terrorists cannot easily escape with civilians or plan ambushes.

The IDF said it carried out airstrikes on June 27 during the operation. In addition, “prior to the operation, the IDF conducted several significant strikes in the northern Gaza Strip, during which dozens of terrorists who were hiding in UNRWA schools and facilities were eliminated,” the IDF stated.

The IDF also announced it carried out an airstrike targeting a terrorist in central Gaza. “The terrorist was operating from within a humanitarian area being used by the Hamas terrorist organization as a shield for their terrorist activity,” the IDF said. “Prior to the strike, a number of steps were taken to mitigate harm to uninvolved civilians, including evacuating the civilian population located around the structure from which the terrorist was operating, conducting aerial surveillance, using a precise munition and additional measures.”

If the Shejaiya operation is similar to the one in Jabaliya in May, it may last weeks. However, the IDF appears to have found that each time it conducts one of these neighborhood raids, it does them faster with fewer troops, enabling personnel to leave after accomplishing the task. In Jabliya, the IDF recovered the bodies of seven hostages. It remains to be seen if the Shejaiya raid is aimed at finding hostages, reducing the terrorist presence in the area, or both.

Meanwhile, the IDF’s Nahal Brigade continued operations in southern Gaza. “The soldiers located many weapons in residential buildings. Among the weapons found were grenades, explosives, timers for activating explosives, magazines, and more,” the IDF stated.

The operation in Rafah appears to be winding down in terms of intensity. Nevertheless, the IDF’s statement about Nahal illustrates that Israeli forces continue to search for terrorist infrastructure in this area.

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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