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IDF presses offensive in Khan Yunis

By Pesach Benson

JERUSALEM — Israeli special forces raided a Khan Yunis tunnel used to shelter senior Hamas figures and hold hostages, the Israel Defense Forces announced on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip on Feb. 6, 2024. (IDF Spokesperson)

The tunnel, over one kilometer in length, was located in a civilian area of Khan Yunis, Gaza’s second-largest city and a stronghold of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, the IDF said.

The tunnel was raided by soldiers from the Yahalom Unit, an elite combat engineering unit. The IDF said forces fought inside the tunnel with terrorists, breached metal doors and neutralized explosives.

During searches in the tunnel, several rooms were discovered, including a barred cell where hostages were held, a bathroom and a rest area used by terrorists holding the hostages.

Video footage released by the military also showed bags of concrete belonging to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The US and 14 other countries suspended funding for the agency amid revelations that members of its staff participated in the Oct. 7 attacks, using UNRWA facilities and vehicles. Israel calls for UNRWA’s defunding and the IDF has been ordered to find alternatives to the agency for distributing humanitarian aid inside Gaza.

“This tunnel held approximately 12 hostages at different times; three of them have been returned to Israel, and the rest are still being held in Gaza,” the IDF said.

Soldiers also found intelligence materials and weapons in the tunnel and destroyed a second adjacent shaft.

“Intelligence estimates suggest millions of shekels were invested in its construction. This strategic tunnel is part of an intricate and interconnected underground labyrinth, linked to another tunnel revealed a few weeks ago where additional hostages were held,” the IDF said.

On Feb. 5, the IDF had said it was continuing to press its offensive in Khan Yunis, killing dozens of Hamas terrorists who tried to ambush soldiers.

That came on the heels of the Feb. 4 announcement that the IDF had destroyed the headquarters of Hamas’ Khan Yunis Brigade.

The headquarters served as a training facility for the terrorists who participated in the Oct. 7 massacre, the IDF said Feb. 4.

The “Al-Qadsia” compound contained “significant training areas,” including mock-ups of the entrance gates to Israeli kibbutzim, military bases and IDF armored vehicles.

Additionally, Givati Brigade troops located the office of Mohammad Sinwar — the brother of Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar.

Mohammad Sinwar is a leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ “military wing.”

Yahya Sinwar, the mastermind of the Oct. 7 massacre is considered Israel’s top target in Gaza, along with Mohammed Deif, the commander of Izz ad-Din al-Kassam.

Soldiers entering the area found that the compound was extensively booby-trapped. Combat engineers neutralized the explosives.

Soldiers also breached the central war room of the Khan Yunis Brigade and the offices of its senior officers.

The base contained rocket storage facilities and tunnel shafts leading to underground tunnel routes.

A workshop for manufacturing weapons and tunnel infrastructure was found, along with many weapons, including anti-tank missiles, RPGs, light machine guns, explosives, grenades and ammunition.

“The Givati Brigade combat team raided the flagship position and training center used by the Khan Yunis Brigade and destroyed it.

“This is a very significant compound, where many weapons were found. The brigade is operating resolutely in western Khan Yunis and is succeeding in driving the terrorists out of their hiding places every day,” said Givati Brigade commander Lt. Col. Liron Bitito.

“I am proud to lead a brigade like Givati in this war. The current generation has proven to be no less committed and moral than previous generations.

“The Givati Brigade will continue to be wherever needed and anywhere we are asked.”

Not all offensive actions against Hamas are on the ground. An Israeli fighter jet struck a Hamas terror cell inside a structure preparing to attack soldiers with explosives.

Separately, a terrorist carrying explosive devices near IDF troops was identified and struck by an aircraft.

Secondary explosions were seen, indicating explosive devices in his possession.

In western Khan Yunis, Israeli forces troops continue to battle terrorist operatives and conduct targeted raids on terrorist targets. Soldiers killed dozens of terrorists who tried to ambush the troops throughout the city.

While Israeli forces continue the intensive assault on Khan Yunis, Hamas is attempting to reestablish itself in areas of the Gaza Strip from which Israeli troops have withdrawn, specifically in the northern parts of the Strip.

This has prompted the IDF to conduct air strikes and targeted raids to quell any resurgence by the terrorist group in the territory that it previously administered.

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