Tunnel destroyed and 100 terrorists eliminated in central Gaza

IDF soldiers central Gaza
IDF soldiers operate in central Gaza. (IDF photo)

On July 1, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that operations in central Gaza have led to the discovery of a tunnel used by terrorists and the elimination of around 100 terrorists. The operations were carried out by the IDF’s 99th Division, which controls the Netzarim Corridor south of Gaza City.

Israeli forces seized this area in late October 2023 during the first phase of ground operations, and it has become one of the only areas continuously controlled by the IDF since October. The corridor stretches from Israel to the Mediterranean.

Soldiers located the tunnel near the Mediterranean, according to an aerial photo distributed by the IDF, in a neighborhood called Wahsh. It is just south of Zaytun, where the IDF has frequently conducted raids to prevent terrorists from returning and rebuilding infrastructure.

“In cooperation with the Yahalom Unit, the troops destroyed a terrorist tunnel one kilometer in length. The tunnel included branches which were used by terrorists to move between different locations underground. In addition, the troops operated against a booby-trapped mosque that was used as a hideout for terrorists in the area. Secondary explosions were detected after the strike, indicating the presence of large quantities of weapons stored at the site,” the IDF said on July 1.

The 99th Division has controlled the Netzarim Corridor for several months, and units have rotated in and out of the corridor. For instance, the 8th Armored Brigade and Alexandroni Infantry Brigade have operated in the area recently. These two units, which often train together and are made up of IDF Reservists, were deployed in northern Israel in the first months of the war. The IDF estimates that soldiers have eliminated “approximately 100 terrorists and destroyed more than 100 terrorist structures, weapons storage facilities, observation posts, launch pits and underground tunnel routes.”

The destruction of more terrorist infrastructure in central Gaza comes amid several developments. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security assessment with the IDF on June 30 to discuss developments in Gaza. According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, the meetings included Israel’s defense minister, the head of IDF Southern Command, and other key officers from the Israeli Air Force and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). COGAT is responsible for humanitarian aid entering Gaza.

At the same time, the IDF has called for civilians in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis to evacuate westward toward a humanitarian zone. Usually, these statements come before the IDF operates in an area, suggesting it may send units into Khan Younis.

On June 30, around 20 rockets were launched at Israel from Khan Younis. This was the largest barrage from the city in months, illustrating that terrorists had returned to this area. The IDF responded to the rocket fire on the same day with artillery fire. Now, it appears the IDF will respond with more force to the threat.

Khan Younis was cleared of terrorists in operations between December and April. The IDF also continues to operate in Rafah in southern Gaza along the border with Egypt and in Shejaiya, a neighborhood in northern Gaza. In Rafah, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket-manufacturing site was uncovered, the IDF said on July 1.

If a raid is launched in Khan Younis, it would mean the IDF is operating with three prongs in Gaza: one in northern and central Gaza with the 99th and 98 Divisions, one in Rafah with the 162nd Division, and possibly in Khan Younis, as well.

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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