Israel’s Defense Forces today revealed images of a treasure trove of weaponry they claim to have uncovered at a Hamas safehouse in a residential property amid their ground operation in Gaza. A slew of photos shared on the IDF’s official social media accounts showed stacks of weapons including various Kalashnikov assault rifles and compact rifles with folding stocks, several RPG launchers, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
The components of what appeared to be a Chinese-made QW-18 man-portable air defence (MANPAD) launcher lay alongside several missiles, as well as a drone used by Hamas to conduct reconnaissance – or to deliver strikes by dropping grenades on unsuspecting soldiers.
Dozens of walkie-talkies, satellite phones and other communications equipment were also recovered at the site, which the IDF said was located in Beit Hanoun – a city in northeast Gaza less than a kilometre from the Israeli town of Sderot. ‘As part of the effort to scan the Beit Hanoun area, forces from the 551st Brigade located many weapons as well as intelligence materials, in a residence in the area. In the activity, Kalashnikov-type weapons and a submachine gun, cartridges, grenades, explosives, protective equipment, armed drones and RPG missiles were found. Some of the means of warfare were destroyed and some were brought to Israel for research purposes,’ an IDF statement read.
The IDF later released footage of its tanks destroying an alleged ‘explosives laboratory’ located near the weapons cache in Beit Hanoun. The images and videos of IDF operations were released as Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari declared his forces have ‘split Gaza in two’ after armoured battalions surrounded Gaza City in preparation for a ground assault on Hamas. ‘Today there is north Gaza and south Gaza,’ Hagari told reporters last night, calling it a ‘significant stage’ in Israel’s war against the Hamas militant group ruling the enclave.
Troops are now expected to enter Gaza City within 48 hours, according to Israeli press – an operation that would mark a new chapter of the conflict which began almost one month ago when Hamas gunmen stormed into Israel and slaughtered some 1,400 people. Northern Gaza was pounded by incessant Israeli airstrikes overnight Sunday into Monday morning, as the IDF seeks to soften up Hamas strongholds in Gaza City before its soldiers are forced to navigate the perilous streets on foot.
Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said more than 9,700 Palestinians have been killed in nearly a month of war in Gaza, more than 4,000 of them children and minors. It put the death toll for the past day at more than 200. At the Sheikh Hamad hospital, known as the ‘Qatari’ hospital, Rear Admiral Hagari showed what he said was photo evidence of tunnel entrances alongside the building discovered by Israeli troops.
Hagari said Hamas operates from within the hospital because they know that the IDF cannot launch an airstrike on them without causing collateral damage. ‘Hamas is weak without human shields,’ he said.
Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus was resolute in declaring the IDF’s intentions for Gaza today. ‘We will take the fight to Hamas wherever they are – underground, above ground. ‘We will be able to dismantle Hamas, stronghold after stronghold, battalion after battalion, until we achieve the ultimate goal, which is to rid the Gaza Strip – the entire Gaza Strip – of Hamas,’ he said.
Critics meanwhile say Israel’s strikes on Gaza are often disproportionate, considering the large number of civilians killed. Gaza also suffered its third communications blackout as Israeli armoured columns surrounded Gaza City yesterday.
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