Israeli forces enter Gaza City neighborhoods to target terrorist infrastructure

IDF tank in Gaza
An Israeli tank of the 7th Armored Brigade operating in Shejaiya. (IDF photo)

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched a new operation in portions of Gaza City on July 8. A raid by troops from the IDF’s 99th Division targeted several neighborhoods that fan out from Gaza’s old city and center toward the west and south. Hamas has returned to many communities in northern Gaza around Gaza City, and the IDF carried out similar raids in Jabaliya in May and Shejaiya in late June.

The IDF said in a statement that “overnight, following intelligence indicating the presence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist infrastructure, operatives, weapons, and investigation and detention rooms in the area of Gaza City, including in the UNRWA headquarters, the IDF and ISA began a counterterrorism operation in the area.”

Hamas has used a large number of UN facilities in Gaza, and the IDF has targeted some of them in precision air strikes over the last two months. In February, Israeli forces uncovered a computer and data center used by Hamas in an underground tunnel below a UNRWA headquarters in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City.

Palestinian media reported that the raid began in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood west of Gaza City. The IDF called on residents to leave the area and head south toward the Mawasi humanitarian zone in southern Gaza. Tel al-Hawa is near the IDF-controlled Netzarim Corridor that stretches across Gaza. It is not far from the Mediterranean coastline and borders another neighborhood called Zaytun, where the IDF has carried out several operations since February to clear the area of terrorists.

The IDF map published online indicates that residents were called upon to flee across the Netzarim Corridor, passing through IDF checkpoints. “A defined route will be opened to facilitate the evacuation of uninvolved civilians from the area,” the IDF said.

The IDF specified that its troops had “operated in the area in the past in order to eliminate terrorists and destroy an underground tunnel route below the compound.” The operation in Gaza City began amid recent hostage and ceasefire talks in which Hamas appeared to be more flexible in its demands.

“In the past 24 hours, the Israeli military has intensified its offensive operations in the northern Gaza Strip. This effort aims to increase direct military pressure on Hamas to become more flexible and advance in negotiations for the release of hostages,” Israel’s Ynet media noted in an analysis.

The raid also comes amid reports that Hamas is recruiting more fighters to its ranks. Although the group has suffered losses to most of its battalions and may have lost more than half its fighters since its October 7 attack, it has reportedly recruited new members over the last nine months.

As the IDF moves from the Netzarim Corridor north into Gaza City’s neighborhoods, a separate operation is continuing in Shejaiya, south of Gaza City. The Shejaiya raid began on the evening of June 27. The IDF’s 7th Armored Brigade, along with elements of the 98th Division, continue to clear terrorist infrastructure in the area.

The IDF said in a statement that it “raided and destroyed a combat compound and a command and control center of Hamas terrorists located in schools and a clinic that were converted from civilian use to terrorist purposes.” The forces found weapons, including pistols, rifles, and machine guns, as well as UNRWA uniforms, indicating terrorists may have been disguising themselves as humanitarian workers. Photos of the weapons found showed many in varying degrees of disrepair, possibly indicating that the militants have less access to weaponry than they did in the past.

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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