IDF declares operational control of Hamas stronghold Shuja’iyya
Israeli artillery unit firing shells towards the Gaza Strip near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Dec. 21, 2023.
(Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces’s 99th Division moved from northern Gaza into the center of the Strip.

By Yakkov Lappin
December 21, 2023

(JNS) — The Israel Defense Forces declared on Wednesday that it had achieved operational control of the Hamas stronghold neighborhood of Shuja’iyya, in northern Gaza.

“IDF forces will continue to hold the area and conduct targeted operations in the neighborhood as needed for operational purposes,” the military stated.

To take the area, IDF soldiers fought close-quarters combat with terrorists, who used firearms and explosives to attack the 36th Division, which seized the area.

The division’s units eliminated the terrorists in intense battles and carried out extensive attacks in the neighborhood, striking hundreds of targets with fire support, per the military.

Israeli forces also identified dozens of tunnel shafts in homes, schools and medical clinics, and soldiers seized large numbers of Hamas weapons in civilian homes, the IDF said.

During the battles, the Golani Brigade’s combat team raided homes of senior Hamas terrorists, seizing intelligence material, while the 188th Armored Brigade’s combat team stormed the Hamas Shuja’iyya battalion headquarters, from where some of the terrorists who launched the Oct. 7 mass murder attack came.

The Paratroopers Brigade’s combat team destroyed more than 100 structures used by Hamas, exposed and destroyed dozens of tunnel openings and arrested many terrorists, who surrendered. The team transferred the terrorists to security forces for investigations, the IDF said.

The war prisoners include a Hamas company commander and terrorists who participated in the Oct. 7 massacre.

The IDF’s Infantry training center combat team destroyed dozens of buildings, which Hamas used, and the 99th Division completed an operation in the southern area of Gaza City and expanded the IDF’s area of ​​activity to the center of the Gaza Strip.

The division’s forces eliminated hundreds of terrorists and found weapons hidden in children’s dolls in the Bakshi area of Gaza, the military said.

Soldiers found large quantities of weapons, including rocket launchers and bombs, and motorcycles, and they destroyed tunnel shafts, some of which had significant water and electricity infrastructure installed.

Palestinians at the site of an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on Dec. 21, 2023. (Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

In the Beit Hanoun area of northern Gaza, soldiers from the counterterrorism unit LOTAR identified a terrorist who emerged from a tunnel shaft firing bursts at the forces, seemingly to draw them toward explosives planted nearby.

The soldiers opened fire, threw grenades and neutralized the terrorist from a distance. Following the incident, soldiers destroyed the tunnel shaft, the IDF reported.

Following an intense barrage of anti-tank missile strikes by Hezbollah on northern Israeli communities, Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck a series of Hezbollah military targets in Lebanese territory.

They struck Hezbollah launch posts, military structures and terrorist infrastructure, among other targets, the IDF said.

IAF fighter jets, aircraft and IDF tanks and artillery struck Hezbollah military infrastructure in Lebanon.

Hezbollah fired projectiles toward the areas of Dovev, Avivim and Har Dov in northern Israel earlier on Thursday. In response, the IDF struck the sources of the fire. Two Israeli civilians were lightly injured from the attacks toward the area of Dovev.

The military also identified launches toward the area of Arab al-Aramshe which did not cross into Israeli territory. An IAF aircraft struck the terrorist cell that carried out the launches.

Sirens sounded in northern Israel due to a hostile aircraft on Thursday. The IAF identified suspicious aerial targets that crossed into Israeli territory from Lebanon, and the targets were successfully intercepted.

Terrorists in Gaza fired a heavy barrage of tens of rockets at central Israel earlier in the day, which activated the Iron Dome air defense system. The rockets caused some damage but no injuries.

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