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Day 73 – First northern Gaza town declared secure as fierce battles rage in other hotspots

Total number of killed Israeli soldiers rises to 131

Israeli soldiers in front of Hamas monument at “Palestine Square” in Shejaiya before they destroy it (Photo: IDF)

The Israeli army on Monday declared the first area of the Gaza Strip in the current Israel-Hamas war as being completely secured, as the fighting continues unabated in Shejaiya and Jabaliya, as well as in the southern town of Khan Younis.

The IDF announced that its operations in Beit Hanoun, a town in the northeastern corner of the Gaza Strip, were completed and that the 252nd Reserve Division handed over responsibility for the area to the regular Gaza Division.

During almost two months of fighting, Israeli defense forces of the 252nd Division decisively defeated Hamas’ Beit Hanoun battalion by capturing all of its strongholds, destroying its forces, and securing the area with weeks-long, thorough searches.

“We are finding weapons of an amount that is impossible to describe. Every second house is full of propaganda materials, shafts, the whole city is Hamas,” said Major (res.) Daniel Chai, of the 5th Brigade, during an interview with Israel's Radio 103FM.

“The underground infrastructure of Hamas in the Beit Hanoun area was significantly damaged, the shafts were dealt with, along with the main tunnel routes,” the army said.

Meanwhile, the battles in other areas of the Gaza Strip continued to raise the death toll among Israeli forces, which reached 131 soldiers killed in action on Tuesday morning.

The neighborhood of Shejaiya continues to be a focus of the battles as the IDF’s Golani Brigade engaged in “intense fighting” there, according to the army.

IDF ground operations in Gaza (Photo: IDF)

Some 600 Hamas terrorists were killed in the area over the past two weeks alone, 200 of them by the IDF's Golani soldiers.

The troops also located and destroyed more than 10 tunnel shafts in the neighborhood, and confiscated weapons and intelligence materials discovered in the homes of Hamas operatives.

“This neighborhood was and still is an established stronghold of the Hamas terror organization, and this is a problem that needs to be uprooted,” said Golani Brigade Commander, Col. Yair Palai.

In a moral victory for the Golani Brigade, the IDF announced on Tuesday that the fighters took over and destroyed the central “Palestine Square” in Shejaiya, which commemorated the killing of seven Golani soldiers during the last Gaza war in 2014.

A video taken at the square showed an armored vehicle toppling the monument erected by Hamas to commemorate the incident.

“We are here, the 13th battalion, at the place where the terrorist organization Hamas erected a statue glorifying the disaster that happened to the battalion during Operation Protective Edge. We are sending a clear message to Hamas: Wherever such a statue is erected, we will come and destroy it,” the battalion commander said.

The body of Sgt. Oron Shaul, one of the Golani soldiers who was abducted and killed in 2014, is still being held by Hamas.

Golani’s fateful connection to the Hamas bastion of Shejaiya was painfully renewed just last week when nine IDF soldiers were killed in an ambush.

The rising number of IDF soldiers falling during combat was also noted by members of the press

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari stated in his daily briefing on Monday evening: “There is no change in my opinion, not in the number of casualties in relation to all phases of combat. [It is] part of the expansion of the ground fighting and that terrorists come out, because we are dismantling the tunnels and terrorists are flooding out… in the end, there are terrorists here are coming out because they can no longer hide, and are fighting with our forces,” he said.

In response to a question about the possible lack of air power contributing to the growing number of casualties, Hagari stressed that each unit had air support nearby and that the Israeli Air Force continues to operate around the clock.

“But this is war, we can’t say it differently, it’s a war, it happens in a war, and there will be more such events in the war.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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