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IDF expands operations in Gaza, digs deep into Khan Yunis tunnel system

(December 28, 2023 / JNS)

The Israeli Defense Forces are fighting in tunnels beneath Khan Yunis, the Hamas stronghold in the southern Gaza Strip, IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Thursday evening.

Hagari said finding the tunnel shafts, destroying Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure and killing the terrorists is a long process. “These are ambitious but important war objectives because there is no other way to defeat Hamas and it will take time,” he said.

In the north, Hagari said the IDF struck targets Thursday in a manner that was “painful for Hezbollah.”

The total number of military casualties, including in the October 7 mass attacks by Hamas in Israel, reached 501 on Thursday after the IDF announced that three more soldiers had been killed in combat in the Gaza Strip.

They are the sergeant. Major Asaf Pinhas Tubul, 22, of the 7th Armored Brigade; Captain Neriya Zisk, 24, of the 401st Armored Brigade; and Maj. Dvir David Fima, 32, of the 460th Light Armored Brigade. Tubul was killed in southern Gaza, while Zisk and Fima were killed in northern Gaza.

Separately, the IDF said it had recovered more than 65 million files and half a million additional documents, as well as operational plans and combat doctrine from Hamas during the ground offensive so far.

The military said its intelligence collection and transportation techniques unit within the Directorate of Military Intelligence was responsible for reviewing the documents. The unit is primarily composed of reserve military personnel and its role is to extract intelligence from captures captured by all combat forces on the ground.

“The maneuvers of IDF forces in Hamas strongholds and the transfer of equipment for further research add a significant link to intelligence images from the tactical to the strategic level and allow intelligence information to flow back to the operational level,” said IDF. “Documents are searched based on their type and in partnership with various collection and research organizations across the intelligence community.”

The recovered intelligence includes a map and legend recovered by the IDF 252nd Division in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, allowing the IDF to locate tunnel shafts on the ground and destroy many of them.

In the north, numerous launches were carried out from the towns of Ayta ash Shab and Ramyeh in southern Lebanon towards Israeli territory. Since Thursday morning, Israeli Air Force planes, as well as IDF tanks and artillery, have struck Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure in these areas.

Also on Thursday, in response to firing into Israeli territory, IAF planes struck a Hezbollah military compound.

A terrorist squad that attempted to launch anti-tank missiles into Israeli territory was also struck by the IDF. In addition, a terrorist squad hidden inside a residence where shootings were being carried out was also hit.

Following sirens that sounded in the Krayot region of northern Israel, just north of Haifa, an unmanned aerial vehicle was identified crossing from Lebanon into Israeli territory and intercepted by the IDF air defense network.

Additionally, overnight and earlier Thursday morning, the IDF struck in several areas of Lebanon.

An exchange of fire between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hezbollah terrorists on the Israel-Lebanon border, December 27, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90

Learn lessons from the incident

Also Thursday evening, the IDF announced the conclusions of its investigation into the circumstances of the death of three hostages following IDF shooting.

The incident occurred on December 15, during intense days of fighting in Shejaia, northern Gaza, when an IDF soldier fired on three figures, identified as threats, and hit two of the hostages who were killed. The third character fled.

“The commanders gave the order to suspend fire in order to identify the third character. After about 15 minutes, the battalion commander heard cries in Hebrew of “help” and “they are shooting at me”, and gave additional orders to hold fire, shouting in Hebrew “come at us”. The character exited a building towards the forces. Two soldiers, who did not hear the order due to the noise of a nearby tank, shot and killed the third hostage,” the investigation revealed.

“The investigation and analysis of the results and aerial images of the area revealed that the hostages were walking shirtless and that one of them was waving a white flag, standing in a place where visibility was limited compared to to the soldier’s position. who fired the shot,” the report continued. “At the end of the event, after clearing and inspecting the area, it was suspected that these individuals were hostages. The bodies were transferred for examination to Israel, after which it was confirmed that they were three Israeli hostages.

The investigation concluded that the command’s ranks “had information about the presence of hostages in the Shejaia region and had even taken measures to prevent strikes on places suspected of harboring hostages.” In this case, there was no information about the two buildings where the hostages were located.

Additionally, the investigation found that “as part of the assessments on the matter, special forces brigades were prepared in each combat zone, immediately available to intervene in the event that a force identified a building with hostages inside.” ‘interior. However,” the report found, “forces on the ground were not sufficiently aware of when hostages reached IDF forces, or (in some cases) when forces encountered hostages while clearing buildings in the in the context of combat and not in the context of a fight. of a special operation to free hostages.

The army stressed that “IDF soldiers involved in the incident experienced complex combat situations in the days preceding the incident and were on high alert in the face of a threat. During the fighting, they faced deception from the enemy and attempts to lure him into pits and buildings laced with explosives.

IDF Chief of Staff, LT. General Halevi said the army “failed in its mission to rescue the hostages during this event.” The entire chain of command feels responsible for this difficult event, regrets this outcome and shares the pain of the families of the three hostages.”

He added that “the beatings on the hostages could have been avoided. At the same time, the Chief of Staff clarified that there was no malicious intent in this event and that the soldiers took appropriate actions to the best of their understanding of the event at that time.

Halevi asked all commanders to learn lessons from the incident and immediately pass them on to the fighting forces to best prevent similar cases from happening again. Additionally, he requested that forces on the ground be made aware “of the presence of hostages in the combat zone, including their location, photographs and various discoveries relating to them.”

The results were presented to the families of the hostages.

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