IDF advance continues, Israel denies report Sinwar fled Gaza

A Saudi report suggested the Hamas leader had escaped to Egypt, possibly with hostages; IDF death toll in Gaza rises to 237.

By Joshua Marks | | Topics: Gaza, Hamas
IDF troops operate against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, on February 19, 2023. Credit: IDF
IDF troops operate against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, on February 19, 2023. Credit: IDF

Israeli forces are continuing their offensive in the former Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, killing dozens of terrorists during “intensive operations” in the western part of the city over the past 24 hours.

A Hamas weapons storage site in the city was also destroyed, with secondary explosions suggesting the presence of a large amount of munitions in the facility.

IDF forces also continue to operate in central Gaza, where Nahal Brigade troops eliminated several terrorists, according to the IDF.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have been reportedly undertaking an operation in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood since Monday night, with Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, tweeting an “urgent appeal” on Tuesday morning for residents of the district to evacuate.

“For your safety, we invite you to move immediately via Salah al-Din Street to the humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi,” Adraee wrote, in a message that also applied to residents of al-Turkuman, an area in the southern part of the Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiya where IDF attacks were reported on Tuesday.

Israel denies report that Sinwar fled to Egypt

Jerusalem on Tuesday denied a Saudi report that the Israeli defense establishment believes Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar has fled to Egypt.

“We are unaware of the information that was published,” unnamed officials said in the denial sent to Channel 12.

The Arabic news site Elaph cited a security source as saying that Israel estimates that Sinwar escaped across the border to Egypt. The mastermind of the Hamas-led massacre of over a thousand people in the northwestern Negev on Oct. 7 has been Jerusalem’s top target.

Hamas senior leader Yahya Sinwar during a visit to Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Aug. 14, 2019. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

In addition to Sinwar, his brother Muhammad and other senior Hamas leaders managed to escape Gaza through the tunnels between Rafah and the Sinai Peninsula, according to the Saudi report.

Furthermore, the security source said that Israel fears hostages were also smuggled to Egypt. There are 134 Israelis remaining in captivity in the Gaza Strip out of 254 kidnapped on Oct. 7. Israel has confirmed that 32 of the remaining hostages are dead.

The IDF released a video last week that appears to show Sinwar and his family hiding in a tunnel under Khan Yunis. The video was recorded on Oct. 10, just three days after Hamas’s massacre. Israeli troops seized the footage several months ago.

Sinwar is believed to still be hiding in the vast tunnel systems underneath Khan Yunis and the nearby city of Rafah, where he has reportedly surrounded himself with Israeli hostages as human shields.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told Ynet that the military is “determined to capture him—and will capture him,” adding, “Our job is to get to Sinwar, dead or alive.”

Israel would not reveal information regarding when or how, he continued.

Israeli security forces are also searching for Mohammed Deif, the commander of Hamas’s “military wing,” and his deputy, Marwan Issa, among other top Hamas terrorists.

The IDF is readying a major offensive in Rafah, according to the military Hamas’s last bastion in Gaza, where the remaining four of the terror group’s battalions are positioned.

Jerusalem expects intense fighting to continue in Gaza for another six to eight weeks, including in Rafah city, before scaling back the war effort, Reuters reported on Monday.

“Military chiefs believe they can significantly damage Hamas’s remaining capabilities in that time, paving the way for a shift to a lower-intensity phase of targeted airstrikes and special forces operations,” the report stated, citing two Israeli officials and two regional officials familiar with the strategy.

 

IDF soldier slain in Gaza

The military reported on Tuesday that 22-year-old IDF Staff Sgt. Maoz Morell, from Talmon in central Samaria, on Monday succumbed to wounds sustained during a battle in the southern Gaza Strip on Feb. 15.

With his death, the number of fallen soldiers since the start of the Gaza ground invasion on Oct. 27 rose to 237; since the start of the war on Oct. 7, a total of 575 military personnel on all fronts have fallen.