Israeli forces expand Khan Yunis offensive

The IDF is preparing to enter Hamad City for an operation against terror forces entrenched there.

By Joshua Marks | | Topics: Gaza, Hamas
An IDF tank during operations in the Gaza Strip, March 2, 2024. Credit: IDF.
An IDF tank during operations in the Gaza Strip, March 2, 2024. Credit: IDF.

The Israel Defense Forces widened its operation in the former Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza overnight Saturday, encircling a Qatari-funded housing compound on Sunday morning ahead of an expected operation against the terrorist group.

Tanks surrounded the area after several preliminary “fire belt” attacks by the Israeli Air Force on Saturday night.

The IDF confirmed on Sunday morning a massive wave of strikes in western Khan Yunis, with the IAF and artillery forces hitting 50 targets within six minutes.

IDF troops during operations in the Gaza Strip, March 2, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Doha financed the construction of the $145 million, 3,000-apartment development, inaugurated in 2016. Called Hamad City, it is named after the former emir of the Arab Gulf state, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and is located north of Khan Yunis and below the city of Deir al-Balah in the center of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniya, who lives in Doha under the protection of the Qataris, described the 2016 opening as “a historic moment.”

Five Israeli air strikes had already destroyed part of the prestige complex in December of last year.

Israeli forces also expanded into the town of Al-Qarara, also located north of Khan Yunis. The town had been hit from the air multiple times since the start of the war on Oct. 7, with ground forces entering the area over the weekend.

Israel’s Channel 12 also cited eyewitness accounts of ground forces advancing to Al-Quds University in eastern Khan Yunis, and reported on air strikes in the area of Deir al-Balah.

Over the past 24 hours, Israeli forces eliminated more than 30 terrorists and confiscated weapons in central Gaza.

According to Palestinian reports, the IDF also struck in the Jabaliya area in the northern Strip and in the area of Rafah along the Egyptian border.

Three soldiers were killed and 14 others wounded in eastern Khan Yunis on Saturday when two charges exploded in the building where they were operating, IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirmed in a press briefing on Saturday night, adding that the incident was under review.

“The incident took place during the troops’ operations to search terrorist infrastructure, during which two explosive devices, set up by Hamas in a building, detonated. We are reviewing the incident,” said Hagari.

The fallen soldiers were identified as Sgt. Dolev Malca, 19, from Shlomi; Sgt. Afik Tery, 19, from Rehovot; and Sgt. Inon Yitzhak, 20, from Mitzpe Ramon.

Their deaths bring the IDF’s death toll since the start of ground operations in Gaza on Oct. 27 to 245, and to 585 on all fronts since the start of the war on Oct. 7.