Intense fighting has erupted between Israeli forces and Palestinian militant groups in southern Gaza over the last several days, centered around the city of Khan Younis. Israel has conducted widespread airstrikes and ground operations as part of an expanding offensive targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad military infrastructure and personnel.
IDF Special Forces Raid Hamas Compound, Kill Senior Operatives
Last Sunday, IDF special forces carried out a nighttime raid against a Hamas military compound in Khan Younis, killing 12 Hamas fighters including 3 senior field commanders. The IDF stated that the high-ranking operatives were responsible for anti-tank missile attacks against Israeli troops and civilians.
Additional clashes erupted during the raid and in its aftermath, with IDF calling in airstrikes to cover the retreat of its ground troops. In total 40 Palestinian fighters were reported killed during the operation. The IDF also uncovered a weapons cache and tunnel network under the compound.
Several IDF soldiers were injured during the heavy fighting. Hamas and Islamic Jihad vowed retaliation for the Israeli raid and launched over 150 rockets indiscriminately into southern Israel over the following days.
Israel Presses Airstrikes, Artillery Fire Across Khan Younis
In the week since Sunday’s raid, the Israeli military has kept up a daily barrage of airstrikes targeting Hamas militant infrastructure across Khan Younis and the surrounding area. Jets, helicopters, tanks, and naval vessels have struck over 150 targets, including weapons facilities, underground bunkers, and the houses of Hamas field operatives.
Several Hamas fighters have been killed in the strikes, most recently early Tuesday morning when warplanes bombed a house in eastern Khan Younis where a squad of militants was residing, immediately killing 5. Later IDF footage showed the house reduced to rubble.
Estimated Hamas Fatalities in Khan Younis Area Since January 14:
- Jan 14 IDF raid: 40 killed
- Jan 15-16 airstrikes: 14 killed
- Jan 17 airstrike: 5 killed
Total: 59 Hamas/IJ fighters killed
The intensified assault on Khan Younis comes after IDF surveillance identified the area as a hub for militant operations against Israel, including frequent rocket attacks and shootings directed at Israeli border towns.
Artillery units stationed along Gaza’s perimeter have also maintained continual shelling of suspected launch sites and observation posts in the vicinity.
Ground Forces Push Deeper Into Khan Younis District
In conjunction with the nonstop aerial bombardment, the Israeli military has launched a ground incursion aimed at uprooting militant cells embedded in Khan Younis neighborhoods.
Spearheaded by elite commando brigades, troops and tanks have slowly fought their way further into the densely urban district over several days of room-to-room raids and running firefights.
Advancing street-by-street, soldiers have uncovered stockpiles of assault rifles, anti-tank missiles, grenades, and mortars stashed in mosques, schools, hospitals, and private homes that Hamas used as makeshift armories.
Troops have destroyed identified launch sites and lookout posts and demolished buildings being used to conceal tunnel access points. 18 Hamas fighters have reportedly been killed by ground forces since Thursday. 6 IDF soldiers have also died in fierce urban combat.
Military sources say the Khan Younis sweep is targeted specifically at militant factions behind the majority of rocket fire. A column of Merkava tanks and Achzarit APCs remains camped on the outskirts, poised to punch through deeper strongholds should command authorize.
Israel Refusing Gaza Ceasefire Appeals Amid Operations
The United Nations, Egypt, and Qatar have all urgently appealed to Israel over the last several days to implement an immediate ceasefire and halt its strikes on Gaza, appeals that Israel has firmly rejected while military operations around Khan Younis remain ongoing.
A statement released by the IDF spokesman on Monday insisted that “the campaign has not yet achieved its objectives”, referring to the disablement of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket crews and infrastructure in the Khan Younis area that have terrorized Israeli border towns.
The statement went on to accuse Hamas of embedding its military assets in civilian areas, using Gaza residents as human shields. It stated that the terror organization bears full responsibility for the casualties incurred during Israeli self-defense operations.
With Hamas rocket salvos continuing daily even under heavy bombardment, Israeli defense officials say the current offensive will likely need to push deeper into Khan Younis before the government agrees to any truce. A bloody and prolonged battle appears imminent.
The United Nations Relief Agency meanwhile warns of an urgent humanitarian crisis developing in Gaza, but Israel has denied UN requests for ceasefire windows to allow aid into affected areas in Khan Younis and Rafah districts. Israeli authorities fear militants would exploit the openings to rearm.
What’s Next for Gaza?
As the Israeli assault extends into its 2nd week focused around Khan Younis, several possibilities exist for how the violence may unfold in the days ahead:
Possibility 1) IDF forces make significant enough inroads into Khan Younis militant infrastructure to satisfy military command that rocket capabilities are sufficiently degraded. Israel agrees to mutual ceasefire and halts strikes. Violence tapers off.
Possibility 2) Heavy casualties sustained during urban combat make Israel wary of pushing further. IDF settles for partial degradation of militant capabilities and implements limited unilateral ceasefire. Hamas continues sporadic rocket attacks.
Possibility 3) Israel decides militant threat requires physically re-occupying Khan Younis. Troops split district with armor and gradually clear sector by sector. House-to-house sweep removes residual rocket teams. Calm restored but Israel re-entrenches in Gaza.
With over 250 rockets having struck Israeli civilian areas over the past month, Israeli leadership faces heavy pressure to deliver decisive results in Gaza. The coming week’s operations around Khan Younis may prove a pivotal phase in a longer war of attrition between Israel and Gaza militant factions.
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