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IDF takes foreign journalists into Rafah, notes destruction due to Hamas' strategy of firing from civilian areas

IDF dismantles PIJ's largest long-range rocket production site found in Gaza

An Israeli soldier operates during a ground operation in the southern Gaza Strip, July 3, 2024. The Israeli military invited reporters for a tour of Rafah, where the military has been operating since May 6. (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool via REUTERS)

The Israeli military invited foreign media reporters to experience firsthand the situation in Rafah, located in southern Gaza, where IDF troops have been engaged in intense fighting with Hamas terrorists over the past two months.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari accompanied the foreign press, while CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond highlighted the destruction in Rafah.

"Israel has repeatedly described its ground operation in Rafah as 'limited.' But in this neighborhood in southern Rafah, the destruction looks almost identical to what I’ve seen in northern Gaza, in central Gaza and in Khan Younis through the limited prism of trips into Gaza with the Israeli military," Diamond said.

Wall Street Journal reporter Dov Lieber also noted the widespread devastation during his visit to Rafah.

"Even the counterinsurgency phase of the fighting that the Israeli military considers lower-intensity has been highly destructive, leaving many neighborhoods in rubble. This weekend, Israel’s military said it continued to find tunnels and fight against squads of militants in Rafah," Lieber stated in his report.

"Building after building had been reduced to piles of rubble. The military, which controlled the itinerary, said Hamas’s extensive use of booby traps made it safer for soldiers to bring the buildings down than to clear them."

Hagari noted that the destruction in Rafah is a result of Hamas’ strategy to fire at Israeli forces while embedding itself in civilian areas.

“When you see destruction, it’s because either the houses were booby-trapped, or when we demolished a tunnel the houses fell apart, or that Hamas fired from those houses and risked our forces and we had no other method but to make sure that our forces were safe,” Hagari stated.

Israeli soldiers showing the entrance to a Hamas tunnel in Rafah (Photo: IDF)

Illustrating the use of the cityscape for terror activity, a week ago the IDF published details of an intelligence-based operation that targeted the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s (PIJ) largest long-range rocket production site found in Gaza so far.

Located in Rafah's Tel al-Sultan area, the compound was captured using drones and precise missiles in simultaneous operations above and below ground by combat teams from Yahalom – an elite unit of the Combat Engineering Corps – and the Commando Brigade.

PIJ has manufactured hundreds of rockets at this site over the past few years, and its destruction dealt the terror group's ability to endanger the Israeli homefront a crippling blow, the army said.

According to reports, more than one million Gazans were concentrated in the Rafah area before the ongoing Israeli military operation.

The New York Times noted the empty streets in the area.

"More than a million people have fled to avoid an Israeli onslaught that began two months ago. Many have been displaced repeatedly and now live in tent cities that stretch for miles, where they face an uncertain future as they mourn the loss of loved ones."

Hamas initiated the war against Israel on Oct. 7, when terrorists invaded and massacred 1,200 Israelis. Palestinian terrorists also kidnapped at least 250 Israelis and foreign nationals, including American citizens. Around 120 hostages are still believed to be held in Gaza, with as many as 32 already deceased.

In February, Israeli special forces rescued two Israeli hostages – Fernando Simon Marman and Norberto Luis Har – in a daring raid in Rafah, which was under Hamas control at the time.

In May, before the IDF's military offensive in Gaza began, Hamas reportedly held four battalions in the Rafah area. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi recently estimated that the Israeli military had eliminated close to 1,000 terrorists in the Rafah area since then.

"We have killed over 900 terrorists in Rafah, including commanders, battalion leaders and numerous operatives. Our ongoing effort is aimed at attriting them while ensuring we remain energized and determined,” Halevi said.

Strategically located adjacent to the border with Egypt, Rafah has served as a critical lifeline for Hamas, which the terror group has used for smuggling large quantities of weapons and other goods into the Gaza Strip.

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

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